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CIF baseball: The blastoff

Three-run shot sparks West Ranch comeback in round 1

Posted: May 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.

After hitting a game-tying three-run home run, West Ranch’s J.D. Krauskopf, second from left, jumps into the arms of teammate Justin Hovis (8) while Tony Slauson joins the celebration on Friday at West Ranch High.

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With West Ranch ace pitcher J.C. Cloney finding bad luck early and his Wildcats down by three runs to Riverside Poly in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs, West Ranch would have to find some sort of response.


That came with the poke provided by second baseman J.D. Krauskopf.


The junior hit a second-inning, three-run home run that jumpstarted the Wildcats’ offense and led to a 6-3 first-round victory.


“I hit it and it just kept going,” Krauskopf said of the home run that tied the score at 3-3. “It was big because they put up three runs the inning before and our guys were down. It was a big hit at the right time.”


The Wildcats (18-8-1) will now play at Capistrano Valley (19-11-1) in the second round on Tuesday.


Capistrano Valley defeated Los Alamitos 14-6 on Friday.


On his own field Friday, Cloney found trouble when an error opened the door for a three-run second by Riverside Poly (16-12).


Bears center fielder Jimmy Smith hit a shot under West Ranch first baseman Tyler Woldanski’s glove. The error allowed a run to score.


Two batters later, Jeremy Moreno knocked in a pair of runs with a single to right field.


“I lost focus in that inning,” Cloney said. “That (error) kind of shocked me. It kind of got to me. After we got the four runs in the second, I had to put up zeroes.”


After Krauskopf’s home run, West Ranch added another run to take a 4-3 lead with a Jagger Rusconi RBI single. Rusconi was 4-for-4 on the afternoon.


The Wildcats added a run in the third inning after Poly shortstop Griffin Barnes made an error on a Justin Hovis ground ball.


In the fifth, West Ranch’s Tony Slauson knocked in the Wildcats’ sixth run with a sacrifice fly.


The Bears then had their best opportunity to get back in the game in the sixth inning.


Three consecutive singles with one out loaded the bases against Cloney.


Bears No. 9 batter Luke Navigato then hit a shot off an outside fastball right at Cloney, who snared it, and then doubled off Xavier Aguirre at third base to get out of the jam.


“That was big,” said Poly head coach Gary Voelker. “We needed to sneak across something there. ... We had situations. Unfortunately the baseball gods weren’t with us.”


Cloney exited the game after surrendering a one-out double in the top of the seventh inning.


He went 6 1/3 innings, struck out eight (including four batters in the first inning), hit a batter, walked one and allowed seven hits.


Poly third base/pitching coach Troy Percival, the former Los Angeles Angels star closer, paid Cloney a compliment after the game.


“He told me I was a great competitor and that his agent warned him about me,” Cloney said.


West Ranch’s Cody Bennett closed out the game, retiring the last two batters.


It was a promising start for West Ranch.


The Wildcats made their share of mistakes on the basepaths and in the field, but the offense picked Cloney up.


“This makes it seem like we have a good chance,” Krauskopf said of West Ranch’s postseason opportunities.


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