"Get on the bus! Get on the bus!"
Lake Balboa Birmingham baseball Coach Matt Mowry had a smile on his face as he exhorted his players to rush out of the dugout at Granada Hills Kennedy so the nine seniors on his team could make graduation scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The seniors had quite a story to tell their classmates.
Down, 3-0, in a City Section Division I quarterfinal playoff game, the Patriots rallied for a 4-3 victory over No. 3-seeded Kennedy.
"These kids showed some amazing resiliency," Mowry said. "It was some of the seniors who came through. They wanted to make graduation even more memorable."
The rally started in the sixth when freshman Justin Rorick delivered a two-run single to cut the Patriots' deficit to 3-2.
In the seventh, Ivan Lomeli led off with a single. Then the Golden Cougars' defense fell apart. On a bunt by Audelio Camacho, pitcher Felix Rubi lost his footing, then threw wildly to first. Pinch runner Nick Schwartz came all the way home from first to tie the game, with the Camacho ending up on third after another wild throw. Then senior Victor Robles broke the 3-3 tie with an RBI single.
Junior pitcher Jonathan Russomano, who retired nine consecutive batters at one point, got Estevan Rodriguez to ground out with the potential tying and winning runs on base in the seventh. Russomano didn't walk a batter while striking out three.
Birmingham (16-15) will face Narbonne, a 7-0 win over Granada Hills, in a semifinal game at USC on Tuesday.
"Glad we played today," Mowry said.
He let his seniors decide whether to play on Friday or delay the game until Saturday. They voted to play.¿
"There's no better feeling," Robles said.
In the other semifinal, it will be Palisades taking on Chatsworth. Palisades upset No. 1-seeded Woodland Hills El Camino Real, 4-0, behind pitcher Holt Maybank, who threw a two-hitter. Chatsworth defeated Banning, 5-2.
In Southern Section Division 1, Tuesday's semifinals at Blair Field will match San Juan Capistrano JSerra against Santa Ana Foothill and Santa Margarita against Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills in an all-Orange County affair.