As a freshman and sophomore, Jack Flaherty couldn't win a playoff game on the mound for Studio City Harvard-Westlake. Now he doesn't lose games period.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander has become a true ace in his junior year, and he was at his best Friday night in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game at Dodger Stadium.
Flaherty (13-0, 0.63 earned-run average) struck out eight, walked one and finished with a six-hitter in Harvard-Westlake's 1-0 victory over Huntington Beach Marina. Flaherty got a big boost in the seventh inning from a replacement left fielder, sophomore Jackson Grayson, who threw out Tyler Mildenberg trying to score from second on a single by Grant Mayeaux.
Catcher Arden Pabst took the throw and blocked the plate perfectly to tag him out.
"It was an unbelievable throw," Flaherty said.
Said Grayson: "I knew how important it was the second the ball was hit."
Harvard-Westlake improved to 28-4 and could be recognized as a national champion by several publications, since the Wolverines are ranked No. 1 by Baseball America, among others. The victory came 10 years after the Wolverines lost to Encino Crespi, 1-0, in the Division 3 title game in 2003 at Angel Stadium.
Flaherty got out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, striking out Austin Sojka.
In the bottom of the third, Flaherty hit a 3-and-2 pitch past shortstop Mayeaux to drive in Casey Rosenfeld with the game's only run.
Austin Olivas allowed six hits in five innings, striking out three and walking none, for Marina (21-10).
What a season it was for a Harvard-Westlake team that graduated two first-round draft picks, pitchers Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, a year ago but relied on Flaherty and No. 2 pitcher Conor Cuse to come through behind exceptional defense.