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Foothill League baseball: A different save

Slauson makes diving catch to end game

Posted: May 9, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 9, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch baserunner Tyler Woldanski, right, dives back to first base as Saugus’ Austin Rodriguez tries to apply the tag on Tuesday at Saugus High School.

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With West Ranch pitcher J.C. Cloney on autopilot in an exceptional performance and the Wildcats bats in attack mode, talk swirled in the top of the seventh inning on how the team was going to celebrate its first-ever Foothill League title on Tuesday.

Then came the bottom of the seventh inning at Saugus High.

Saugus started hitting and Cloney was losing track of the strike zone.

The Centurions cut a six-run West Ranch lead down to three and had the tying run at the plate in Austin Rodriguez.

Rodriguez hit a sinking fly ball into right field and West Ranch’s Tony Slauson dove and caught the ball, giving West Ranch a 6-3 win and the Foothill title.

The celebration came in the form of a dogpile.

“Picture perfect,” was how Slauson described the ending.

“It was a great way to end the (league) year, but in the (top of the) seventh inning, we might have got ahead of ourselves,” Cloney said.

Going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Saugus (15-10-1 overall, 9-5 Foothill League) had just three hits against Cloney and threatened him only in the fifth inning with two baserunners.

Cloney also had a string of 18 batters in a row that he had not gone to a three-ball count to going into the frame.

But he surrendered back-to-back singles to Chris Devery and Andru Cardenas.

With one out, he went to his first three-ball count since the first inning and walked Nick Warren.

Then he walked Roy Verdejo, allowing Saugus’ first run.

A fielder’s choice and wild pitch cut West Ranch’s lead to 6-3.

Then, on a 2-2 count, Rodriguez lifted the ball into right field.

Slauson, who had a big day at the plate going 3-for-4, dove and caught it.

Yet Saugus’ coaches argued that he didn’t.

Saugus head coach John Maggiora said his brother Doug, the Centurions’ third base coach, described Slauson as “pancaking the ball,” meaning his glove flattened the ball off a short hop.

Maggiora also said the base umpire didn’t chase the play and made the call from the infield.

Yet he said he didn’t want to take anything away from West Ranch’s victory.

Nonetheless, it was a rough loss for the Centurions, who with two wins this week versus West Ranch would have been the Foothill League champions.

Now they have to win Thursday at West Ranch to make sure they don’t finish league in fourth place.

“They’re disappointed because they care,” Maggiora said of his team. “On Thursday, we’re going to have to get after it. Even if it didn’t mean anything, we don’t want to go into playoffs on a three-game losing streak.”

On Tuesday, Saugus had its ace on the mound, Justin Donatella, but West Ranch came in with a plan.

Slauson said the scouting report on Donatella was that he liked to stay outside. So in Monday’s practice, Wildcats hitters worked on going the other way with his pitches.

The Wildcats (17-7-1, 11-3) got nine hits off Donatella in four innings.

He surrendered an RBI single to Cloney to put West Ranch up 1-0 in the third inning.

That got the ball rolling as West Ranch added three more in the inning off a squeeze bunt by Justin Hovis, followed by an error and RBI single from Slauson.

A wild pitch in the fifth scored Jagger Rusconi.

The Wildcats finished off their scoring with an RBI single by Matt Guerrero in the top of the seventh.

West Ranch had 15 hits in the game and every batter in West Ranch’s lineup had at least one hit.

With the league championship, the Wildcats finally got over a four-year hump in which they’ve been close, but could never walk away with the title.

So mission accomplished.

But mission over?

“No,” Cloney said, then referencing a CIF-Southern Section Division I title and a win Thursday against Saugus. “Six more wins, then the show will be over.”



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