It was a game nobody deserved to lose.
The type of masterpiece capable of morphing even the most grumble-hearted baseball cynic into a bubble-gum chomping school kid again.
Pacifica of Garden Grove captured the crown in 10 innings, 3-2, over Aliso Nigel in the CIF Southern Section Division II championship Friday night at muggy Dodger Stadium.
Wolverines starting pitcher Brett Barker was nothing short of spectacular, allowing just two runs in nine innings of work, scattering nine hits and striking out seven.
"Yes, a couple of times against Mission Viejo," Barker answered when asked if he'd ever worked that hard on the mound before. "But with the atmosphere here, it was different. It seemed like I got tired more quickly, the sun was just beating down on me. But I battled through it."
Barker struck out four of the first six batters he faced and didn't allow a hit until the third, when Cody Bistline sparked a one-out rally with a single, then came around to score on Trent Chatterton's double down the left field line.
Chatterton, a UCLA signee, knotted the game at two apiece two batters later when he scored on a Kyle Davis fielder's choice.
The offensive mojo the Wolverines cooked up in a 16-3 semi-final drubbing of Trabuco Hills bubbled over early at Chavez Ravine.
Barker raked the game's first pitch for a single then moved along to third when Kyle Paris singled two batters later. Paris advanced to second on the throw and, along with Barker, scored when Matt Molnar sent a frozen rope to center for a two-run single that made it 2-0 right out of the gate.
But, matching Barker's intensity inning for inning, Pacifica’s starter, Davis, knuckled down from there, and the contest turned into a defensive clinic.
Thanks to some nifty glove-work, Barker wiggled out of a jam in three frames, including a whirling 1-6-3 double-killing in the eighth, and a momentum stealing two-for that closed the Barker's evening in the ninth, a fly to right that Kyle Molnar returned to first to nail a straggling runner.
"Barker was unbelievable," Aliso Niguel coach Craig Hanson said. "He was at 101 [pitches] after eight [innings] and he came in and said he wanted to go one more. It was going to be a tight leash, but we got him that double play, which was huge. Barker's just a competitor. He wanted that last inning, and I gave it to him."
But while Barker and his stellar defense kept killing Mariner rallies inning after inning, Aliso Niguel wasted many offensive opportunities of its own, hitting into a pair of double plays, and generally failing to work deep into counts.
The Wolverines finished with nine hits, but took just two bases on balls and stranded two potential game-winning runners in the seventh and ninth.
"Congratulations to Pacifica, first-off," Hanson said. "They're well-coached, a great team right there. But we have a good team too. I expected to hang in with them. Our team is a quality team with great leadership. Great seniors."
Relieving Davis in the top of the ninth for Pacifica was southpaw Max Bethell, who was the subject of a feature in the Orange County Register Friday morning after having recently lost his father to cancer.
Bethell, a burly clean-up hitter with a reputation for coming through in the clutch, took an eight-foot, neck-first tumble onto the cement sod of the photographer's pit along the first base line in the top of the first.
Bethell hopped up, shook off the cob webs and said, "Let's go," before bounding back onto the field. In the bottom of the 10th, Bethell, having earned the win from the mound, rushed the field with his teammates when Chatterton drove in Brandon Scales with the game-winning run on a dramatic, two-out, walk-off line drive to left.
Aliso Niguel, which finished runner-up to Mission Viejo in Sea View League play, finished the season 23-11 and will now bid farewell to a veteran group of 12 seniors.
"We came together like a family pretty much," Barker, who finished 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a walk, said of the 2012 Wolverines. "I don't know if I've ever been so close to a team before. It was great. We bonded well. A lot of seniors. It was awesome."
Pacifica, champions of the Empire League, finished the season 28-5.