As their teammates walked solemnly back to the dugout following Malibu’s 10-3 loss to Crean Lutheran in the CIF Division VI quarterfinals, Chase Lambert, Noah Simon, Chris Falk and Nick Anthony stood alone together in right field for the last time.
The realization had just set in that their high school baseball careers were over. With tears in their eyes and hearts filled with sadness, the four seniors hugged each other as the many Malibu supporters who made the long trek to Irvine applauded with adulation and admiration.
“Surreal. Bittersweet,” said Lambert as he tried to summarize his emotions. “I was walking off the field and I was looking at my helmet, looking at my jersey and knowing I’m never going to put them on again.
“It was probably the greatest four years of my life. I couldn’t have asked for anything differently. I’ve been around some great kids while I’ve been here. I can’t believe I’m already done. It’s been great.”
Last week’s loss to top-seeded Crean Lutheran concluded a chapter that will forever be remembered in Malibu baseball history.
Led by Lambert, a four-year starter headed to play collegiate ball at Pepperdine, the senior class won 64 games, including back-to-back league titles in 2013 and 2014, tallied up a school-record 24 wins a year ago, and made a trip this season to the CIF quarterfinals, the farthest a Malibu team has ever advanced.
“In every real metaphorical sense, they kind of took a machete to a jungle and cleared a path for the rest of us to walk through,” Malibu coach Ari Jacobs said. “They have really set a path for the future of this program. We are very excited.”
Lambert’s RBI triple gave MHS the early 1-0 lead after three innings. But the Saints countered with 10 runs over the final three innings to move on to the semifinals. Lambert finished his illustrious career with a double in his final at-bat.
Junior Hunter McMillin went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. Ezra Allen started on the mound and threw three scoreless innings for the Sharks.
The fact that Malibu (17-13) was even playing in the quarterfinal contest was a testament in itself.
The Sharks rallied from a 5-0 deficit and defeated Flintridge Prep, 6-5, in the second round. Trailing 4-0 with no outs in the fourth inning, Simon hurt his back while pitching and had to leave the game.
In came junior lefty Andre Simoneau who promptly shut down Flintridge Prep, limiting the Rebels offense to two hits and one unearned run the rest of the way.
“In between innings, I was in the dugout listening to music. I was trying to just focus on pitches and not let anything get to me,” Simoneau said. “I knew what it felt like to pitch in a game like that. I knew what I had to pitch against.”
Simoneau’s outstanding effort in relief enabled Malibu to regain its confidence and battle back.
“Andre was the difference in the game,” Jacobs said. “He held them right at bay. He saved our season.”
As they have done several times this season, the Sharks roared back to win in dramatic fashion. Run-scoring singles by Falk, Cade McMillin and Dylan Ross made it a 5-3 game after four innings.
Two innings later, Allen drove in Lambert on a single to right field and Ross scored moments later on a Rebel error to tie the game.
The stage was then set for a walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh.
A bunt single by Cade McMillin sandwiched by walks to Falk and Lambert loaded the bases with two outs. Up came Allen, who promptly swung at the first pitch and knocked in the game-winning run on a blooper down the left field line that fell in between three Rebel players.
A little hit became the biggest hit of the season.
“That little blooper worked and I was super happy,” Allen said after being mobbed by his teammates as he rounded first base.
The come-from-behind win sent Malibu into the history books only to come up short three days later.
“I’m very proud of not only the seniors but the entire program for what they were able to accomplish this year,” Jacobs said. “They faced a lot of adversity and came back fighting every time. It’s something that I hope they take with them forever.”