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West Ranch athletics: Baseball leads the charge

Deep playoff run is symbolic of West Ranch’s schoolwide progress

Posted: May 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch outfielder Tony Slauson bunts for a single on Tuesday in Long Beach.

 

LONG BEACH — Long Beach’s Blair Field was a proving ground on Tuesday. Not for just a baseball program, but for an entire school.

When West Ranch High opened up in 2004, it experienced growing pains such as half-built facilities, losing teams and maybe the occasional mechanical failure.

Eight years later, its baseball team became a symbol of just how far the school has come.

In 2011-12, West Ranch High became a Foothill League athletics power — across the board.

Minutes after the Wildcats’ baseball team lost the closest of games 2-1 to Corona in the CIF-Southern Section Division I semifinals, West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill said he didn’t want to think about what could have been. What could have been was a trip to the finals and playing at Dodger Stadium for the school’s first-ever CIF team championship of any kind.

Instead, he wanted to focus on what was.

“I don’t know if we’ll think about how tough it is,” Burrill said of losing in the semifinals. “We’ll concentrate more on the Foothill League title, the CIF run we made. We’ll celebrate more than hang our heads low.”

What this team accomplished — first ever Foothill title in the team’s six-year residency in the league and two more playoff wins than it had ever won in a season — was just the tip of the iceberg.

West Ranch flew the flag for a downtrodden Foothill League in baseball, which has had little success since moving to Division I, considered by some to be the best in Southern California, in 2005.

The Wildcats proved that the Foothill does belong playing with the best. Helping that notion was the fact that Saugus made the quarterfinals of the D-I tournament this year.

“Us and Saugus proved we could beat everyone we played,” said West Ranch junior pitcher Cody Bennett, who was stellar in a complete game against Corona, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out six batters. “People were shocked we beat (national No. 1) Orange Lutheran (in the quarterfinals), but we knew we would beat them all week.”

That could be a reflection of how West Ranch athletes now think as a whole, the “we can beat anyone” approach.

Baseball was the most high-profile sport to make advances, but other teams at the school did as well during this school year.

The boys volleyball team, despite being a second-place team in the Foothill League, made it all the way to the Division II semifinals. Softball won its first Foothill title. So did boys basketball, which made a run to the Division IA quarterfinals.

That built on what was already established by flourishing tennis, golf and boys soccer programs.

So when Burrill, during a time when he could have easily thought about what could have been, took the wide view, he understood that his baseball team was a representation of what his school has become.

“I think I feel a real source of pride,” he said. “We had a really good year for West Ranch sports in general. Maybe we’re not the new school anymore. We’ve turned the page. The seniors made that happen.”

661-287-5529

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