Mike Garza said he couldn’t sleep Tuesday night heading into Highland’s Central Section Division III semifinals.

But that was more of a positive indication of things to come rather than the second-year head coach being worried.

“I told the boys (before the game) that I have a gut feeling, and I said, ‘You know me, I have a pretty big gut,’” Garza said with a chuckle. “So when I get that gut feeling, it’s pretty big.”

That lightheartedness came Wednesday evening after No. 3 Highland beat No. 10 Nipomo 6-1 as the Scots advanced to the D-III finals for the second time in three seasons after no title game appearances in the first 47 years of the program.

“We don’t get a lot of credit, but we are here to show them what we are made of,” Highland starting pitcher Matthew Miranda said. “We are just an east side D-III team that no one really knew about a few years ago. Now we are coming and making a name for ourselves.”

Highland will play No. 12 Atascadero on Saturday at Fresno State. Game time is still to be determined.

Miranda went five strong innings, striking out five batters and allowing just two hits, including a solo home run by Carter Stevens in the fifth inning. Miranda left the game throwing 69 pitches, meaning he is available to pitch in the finals on Saturday.

“I knew Matt was going to come out and dominate,” Highland junior Isiah Farjardo said. “Then coach asked me if I wanted the last two innings and I wanted it.”

Fajardo didn’t allow a run in the final two innings after pitching a complete game in the quarterfinals win over Firebaugh on Saturday.

There are seven players that were on the 2017 championship team. Add in Farjardo and his brother, Andrew — the starting senior catcher — who were both on the D-III championship team last season for Garces, and Garza is able to field an entire team of players that have won section titles. To the head coach who was an assistant for Rick Sawyer two years ago, it matters.

“It’s a tremendous help,” Garza said. “I tell the boys to try and get them pumped up that there are kids that play all four years of varsity ball and never get a chance at this. There are coaches that coach 20 years that never get a shot at Valley. Now for (those nine) it’s two chances … It’s like a win-win feeling.”

Highland scored twice in the first inning to give Miranda quick run support as Isiah Fajardo and Nick Salas crossed the plate.

Then the Scots (28-2) scored two more in the third and fourth against Nipomo junior Ricardo Rodriguez, who was 10-2 with a 1.15 ERA in 79 innings coming into the semifinals.

“He is our guy. I am going to ride with him until I can’t,” Nipomo coach Samm Spears said.

With just two losses this season, both against Liberty in tournament play, the Scots are riding high seeking a second section title in three seasons for a now-flourishing program that was once title starved.

“I take tremendous pride in this,” Garza said. “This is something any coach would want.”

(1) comment


It was the defense that won that game. I can think of three plays that saved runs, especially the double play started by the shortstop that ended the inning with the bases loaded. That was something.
The right fielder also made a diving catch that was probably going to be a triple if he misses it.

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