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Saugus plays its card right

The Centurions baseball team moves onto the first round of playoffs

Posted: May 19, 2009 9:39 p.m.
Updated: May 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Saugus pitcher Kyle Hooper (28) is greeted by teammate Tommy Kister (26) after the last out Tuesday in the wild card of the CIF-SS Division I playoffs.

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When it comes to postseason baseball the old saying is that “pitching wins championships.” Tuesday, Saugus proved that defense may be just as important.

The Centurions capitalized on four Oxnard errors to plate four unearned runs en route to a 4-2 wild-card CIF-Southern Section Division I win over Oxnard at home, which means Saugus will move on to play at powerful Mater Dei Friday.

“We came out and played the game with the pride that we know we need to play with to win,” said Saugus head coach John Maggiora. “We really focus on playing the game with the respect it deserves to be played with, and I think we proved that we are capable of that today.”

The Yellow Jackets (14-13) jumped out to an early lead by pushing two runs across in the top of the third.

Julian Ramon started a two-out rally with a double that was followed by an infield single by Austin Davidson. Ramon then scored on a Blake Adame single and Davidson came across the plate on a throwing error by Saugus starter Tommy Kister.

“Overall, I really didn’t think we played very well,” said Oxnard head coach Alfred Tarazon. “We had some very routine plays that we just didn’t make.”

The first fundamental mistake by the Yellow Jackets came in the bottom half of the third when an error by Adame allowed Brett Piper to come around for the Centurions’ first run.

A pair of Oxnard errors plagued the Yellow Jackets in the fourth. The inning appeared to be over, but first baseman Oscar Lopez couldn’t handle a ground ball with two outs, allowing Stefan Cordes to come to the plate with two men on base.

Cordes took an offering from Oxnard starter Mikel Beltran over the center field fence for a game-changing, three-run blast that gave the Centurions (16-11) a two-run lead.

“We came into this game wanting to make a name for ourselves,” Cordes said. “When I came up with two guys on, I knew it was my chance to do something for our team. I knew people doubted us coming into this game so it was my time to show everyone what this team is about.”

Kister hit a rough patch in the top of the fourth, but Kyle Hooper came in to get the final out of the frame by getting Ramon to fly out to right field with two men on, setting himself up to get the win.

Hooper wound up retiring 10 of the 11 batters he faced to earn the victory.

“All I wanted to do was throw strikes,” Hooper said. “Our defense was great today and that let me settle in and feel comfortable on the mound. When you know the guys behind you are going to catch the ball it gives you confidence that you can pitch the way you want to pitch.”

Hooper cruised through 3 1/3 innings to close out Oxnard, not allowing a hit, while striking one batter out. The win was his sixth of the season, and it is likely Kister and he will be called upon again versus Mater Dei.

The duo has been the backbone of the Cents’ pitching staff all season, earning 12 of Saugus’ 16 wins.

“Hooper has been so great in a relief role,” Maggiora said. “It just seems like he thrives there, and today was a great example of that. This is what playoff baseball is all about. You have to make plays, and your guys on the mound have to step up. We know that Friday is going to be a challenge, but when you are playing postseason, baseball anything can happen if you play well.”

kdamore@the-signal.com

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