The high school baseball season has reached the point where the bad teams are long gone and the margin for error if you want to keeping playing in the postseason has been significantly lowered, especially in Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
So understand how the slightest mistake can be exploited, which is what happened on Friday in Agoura's 2-0 first-round Division 1 victory over Encino Crespi.
Crespi seemed on the verge of a comeback in the seventh inning against pitcher Andy Sondreaal, who had retired 11 consecutive batters. Chasen Gensurowsky got a bloop single with one out. Then Sondreaal couldn't throw strikes. He walked Matt Cassin. He walked Matt Orosco. The count went to 3-and-0 against Jeff Welk with the bases loaded.
Sondreaal got a signal from the bench to try a pickoff attempt. And it worked. He threw the ball to first baseman Daniel Cipriano, who tagged out Crespi's pinch runner. Two outs. Sondreeal then threw an eighth consecutive ball to again load the bases.
Shortstop Bryce Fehmel came in to pitch, and he got Zack Mausser to fly out to a sliding Matt Lautz in left field to end the game.
"We've concentrated on executing and thriving in pressure situations," Agoura Coach Anthony Chevrier said of his Marmonte League championship team. "Obviously, that second out in the seventh inning was pretty important on a 3-0 pitch to back-pick a guy at first base. We put ourselves in position to be successful. That's what we practice and play this game for."
It was a tough loss for Crespi (14-14), which had made major improvement over the course of the season to be the fifth-place team in the Mission League and challenge the Chargers, who are 24-5 and seeded No. 4, behind pitcher Justin Dehn, who gave up five hits.
The only runs were scored in the fourth inning. A misjudged fly ball allowed Cipriano to end up with a double. He advanced to third base on a wild pitch, and pinch-runner Jacob Stock scored on an errant pickoff attempt. Then Joey Czarske hit a home run.
"I thought they outplayed us all day, but the opportunity was there and we couldn't quite get it done," Crespi Coach Scott Muckey said.