Vista High Baseball Wins 66th Annual Lions Invitational
Shawn Hobson …SAN MARCOS – Chalk up a big tourney win for the streaking Big Red varsity baseball team at Vista High.
The Panthers bested two teams Thursday to take first place in the Premier Division of the 66th annual Lions Invitational Tournament at Cal State San Marcos.
Vista High went five-for-five in the tournament, locking up the championship with a 9-5 victory over Christian – a win that sent jubilant players leaping into a dogpile after the final out. Earlier in the day, the team had walloped Bonita Vista 10-3 in a semifinal matchup.
Photos by Shawn Hobson
The tournament victory marked the eighth win in a row for the Panthers (8-2).
“We should have a really good season this year,” Vista High coach Ricky Imperiali said. “We’re a young team.”
The hot streak marks a turnaround from the start of the regular season, which the Panthers opened with back-to-back losses.
Something must have clicked. The team entered the tournament on a hot streak.
It was a good place to make a strong showing. The Lions Invitational is well regarded, drawing teams from throughout California, and a few from Colorado, Nevada and Utah. Some 128 teams played in the tournament this year.
The Panthers competed in the 16-team Les Cassie Premier Division, one of the highest-rated brackets in the tournament.
The Panthers advanced to the semifinals after winning their first three games, starting Monday with a 17-1 win over Rocklin, a school near Sacramento. The next day, Vista senior Matt Ornelia smacked a walk-off triple to lead his team to a 5-4 victory over Desert Oasis of Las Vegas.
On Wednesday, the Panthers shut out La Jolla Country Day 3-0 to advance to the semifinals, which were played on an official NCAA baseball field.
Ornelia, who went 3-for-5, against Christian was named tournament MVP. San Diego Lions Club president James LaBrone awarded the winning team, the runner-up, and the MVP with an engraved bat.
The Panthers play next Tuesday at Del Norte, beginning another tournament – the North County Tournament.