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Two teams advance in VIBL playoffs

Valencia and West Ranch move on to elite eight; Hart and Saugus eliminated

Posted: July 25, 2009 7:46 p.m.
Updated: July 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Four Foothill League teams came into the second round of the Valley Invitational Baseball League Playoffs Saturday, and two continued to the round of eight with a pair of decidedly different games.

Valencia, coming off a 14-11 win in its first round over Simi Valley turned to its pitching to score a 4-1 win over Calabasas, while top-seeded West Ranch slugged out a 14-13 win over St. Francis of La Canada at home.

Derin Matsen pitched 5 1/3 innings without allowing a run before Kyle Eaton came in to close the door for the Vikings.

“You know, we have been telling these guys that all they have to do to be successful is throw strikes,” said Valencia head coach Jared Snyder. “Today, both guys we ran out there did that, and it worked out. Derin did a great job of pitching. He got ahead of hitters. He threw inside. He did just what we needed him to do.”

For West Ranch, the offense looked a lot like the one that scored the team’s first CIF-Southern Section postseason win last season with a seven-run rally in the fourth inning, erasing a five-run deficit and giving the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish.

“We lost three All-CIF players so we know that we need to reload, and we have been pleased with how our young guys have stepped up this summer,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “When you have a lot of young guys on your team it is good to know that you can win a game like this. Today was a five-hour game. It was more a battle of attrition than anything else.”

Hart and Saugus were both eliminated from the tournament with losses that ended the summer season for both clubs.

Chatsworth downed the Indians 11-5, while Crespi of Encino dropped the Centurions 5-1. Both teams were on the road.

“I told our guys that they should be proud because we were competitive,” said Saugus head coach John Maggiora. “We are vacation-bound now, but I look at the fact that we were in all 20 games we played. This group of guys has what it takes to stay competitive.”

For Hart, a one-run lead after the top of the first was quickly erased as Chatsworth scored three in the first and second innings, a pair in the third and three more in the fourth.

“We still have issues regarding our pitching, but I think we have made a lot of progress this summer,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “We are working on establishing guys who can pitch well, and we have some established guys who we know can be starters. A lot of guys on our team made strides during the last few weeks.”

Valencia relied on Eaton to supply the big offensive spark on top of throwing the final 1 2/3 to close the door on Calabasas.

Eaton hit a two-run homer, while the Lopes brothers, Christian and Timmy, both chipped in a hit.

“This win is big for us because it shows that we have balance and our guys can adjust to different situations,” Snyder said. “On Thursday we won a game when our offense was on. Today our pitchers knew that we needed them to pick us up, and they came through.”

As for West Ranch, it was day where the Wildcats showed why they had the best record during the regular season of VIBL play.

Cody Howard paced the offense with three hits, all home runs, and five RBIs. Josh Heinz and Chris Caldwell chipped in two hits and an RBI apiece, while Nico Rusconi and Randy Poe both knocked in a pair.

“In a lot of ways, coming into this league we knew we had a lot of talent, but we knew it was untested,” Burrill said. “Now I think our guys are finding out what it takes to win games.”

Howard not only starred in the batter’s box. He also came in to get the last two outs, inheriting runners on second and third.

“Yeah, it wasn’t too bad of a day for him,” Burrill joked. “We needed somebody to get those last two outs, and I’m glad he did because we want to have a good last week.”

The Indians head into their break focused on rebuilding a program that is a perennial Foothill League power, but came off a year where they needed a wild card bid to make the playoffs.

“What we are most interested in is playing the game our way,” Ozella said. “We are going to try to highlight our pluses. When you have a lot of young kids on your team, you can have days like today. We didn’t really play our game, but that isn’t what we are going to take away from this league.”

Maggiora has similar beliefs about his team as it takes a break before resuming practice around Labor Day.

“Our guys are getting a chance to get away from the game for a second, which is a good thing,” Maggiora said. “There are a lot of good things that we can take away from this. We have a good bunch of guys, and I think this is the kind of team that could sneak up on people next year.”

Up next for Valencia is Crespi, while the top-seeded Wildcats welcome El Camino, both on Monday.

“When you look at the VIBL traditionally, the teams that have done well in this tournament have done well in their high school league too,” Burrill said. “We know this is a good way for us to build and mature as a team.”

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