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On to the VIBL finals

Wildcats stave off fierce Crespi rally in seventh inning

Posted: July 29, 2009 10:38 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch's Aaron Smirnoff slides into home plate during the sixth inning Wednesday against Crespi at West Ranch High School. The Wildcats' VIBL team advanced to the varsity playoff finals by holding off Crespi 8-7.

West Ranch advanced to the Valley Invitational Baseball League championship game Wednesday, but just barely.

What started as a seven-run Wildcat lead heading into the top of the seventh inning, turned into a one-run nail-bitter as West Ranch hung on to beat Crespi of Encino 8-7 in the VIBL varsity semifinals.

With the victory, the VIBL regular season champions will take on Agoura Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Birmingham High.

Agoura beat Newbury Park 12-2 on Wednesday.

It will be the program’s first such trip in school history.

“It kind of seems like everything we do is for the first time. We’re kind of new kids on the block, so this is a big step for us,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “We beat a really good program today. and for that we are really excited.”

Up 8-1 going into the final frame, West Ranch gave up six earned runs highlighted by a grand slam by Crespi’s Mike Hubbard, that cut the lead to two runs.

With runners on first and third and no outs, Matt Blake took the mound to preserve the victory for starter Ryan Keller.

After a sacrifice fly brought in the Celts’ final run, Blake shut the door and the Wildcats escaped with the win.

All six seventh inning runs were credited to JC Cloney, who was lights out in the sixth inning.

“I wasn’t nervous, but I was getting a little tired,” Cloney said.

However, Cloney’s day at the plate was key in the Wildcats’ win as the first baseman finished 2-for-3 with two runs, two RBIs and a solo home run in the sixth inning.

“(My hitting) has progressed the whole summer, and I feel it will be really good in the championship game,” he said.

Cloney took the mound in relief of Ryan Keller, who threw five innings, striking out three. Keller was dominant, allowing only three base runners, two of which reach on errors.

The Celts took an early 1-0 lead when a errant throw to first allowed the Crespi runner at third to score.

However, West Ranch responded with two runs in the second, a Josh Heinz solo home run in the fourth, two in the fifth and three in the sixth.

Burrill credited Jared Ortiz’s two-run double in the fifth as the key hit of the game, one in which extended the cushion to 5-1.

“I guess I’d have to say they were a little better than I thought they were going to be, which means they are pretty damn good,” said Crespi head coach Scott Muckey. “We knew they were good, they didn’t go (16-2 in the VIBL regular season) and be bad. But they swung a little better than I thought.”


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