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CIF baseball: Scrap to the end

Saugus tries to rally, but falls short in CIF quarterfinals

Posted: May 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Saugus senior Justin Donatella walks off the field at the end of a CIF-Southern Section Division I playoff game against Newbury Park on Friday at Saugus High School while Newbury Park players celebrate their 7-3 victory.

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Saugus baseball developed a reputation this season for being a scrappy team that finds any possible way to win a game.

So it made sense that even in a dire situation during Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Division I quarterfinal game, Saugus battled until the bitter end.

This time around, the battle was lost 7-3 to Newbury Park at Saugus High School, ending the most successful playoff run for the Centurions since 1991 when they last played in a CIF quarterfinal.

“There was so much momentum built up,” said Saugus senior Austin Rodriguez. “It seemed like we could keep it going, but we couldn’t. That’s just a part of life.”

Coming off an upset of J.W. North High in the second round, the Centurions had another tall task on Friday against Newbury Park ace Luke Eubank, who came in with a 9-0 record, 1.04 ERA and three no-hitters for the season.

Add that to the fact that the Panthers (19-7) spotted Eubank with a 5-0 lead by the fifth inning, and it was a seemingly impossible scenario for the Centurions.

But Saugus (18-11-1) didn’t give in, scoring three runs off nine hits, which was a season high allowed by Eubank.

“They’re a great ball club,” said Newbury Park head coach Matt Goldfield of Saugus. “They hit (Eubank) better than anybody this year and I’ll tell you what, my blood pressure is still through the roof.”

Rodriguez chopped a single into left field with two out in the fifth to score Ruben Cardenas and Kyle Mark, narrowing the Panther’ lead to 5-2.

The Centurions had a chance to close the gap even further in the sixth, putting runners on second and third with two out.

But Newbury Park first baseman Matt Haskins made a nice play gobbling up a hard-hit grounder by Mark to end the inning.

It was one of a handful of strong defensive plays by Newbury Park.

“Give credit to them,” said Saugus head coach John Maggiora. “They’re moving on. They made the plays and we didn’t.”

Saugus starter Justin Donatella fell behind early when he gave up a two-RBI single to Taylor Zander in the second to make it 2-0.

The Panthers added a run apiece in the third, fourth and fifth innings to extend the lead.

After a strong season as Saugus’ ace, Donatella finished the day after giving up seven runs, five earned off eight hits in six-plus innings of work.

Newbury Park added two insurance runs in the seventh, but the Centurions had one last burst of life to give in the bottom half.

Saugus strung together three hits in the frame, including an RBI single by Spencer Daniels, but once again, the inning ended on a groundout with two runners on.

And so did the season.

“We just kept hitting,” Maggiora said. “This team keeps fighting. We fought all year.”

Despite finishing tied for last place in the Foothill League a year ago, the Centurions exceeded expectations by taking second in league and making a run through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

“We’re brothers,” Rodriguez said of himself and the other seven seniors on the team. “We love each other.”

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