Sophomore pitcher Sam Villa of Reseda Cleveland was thinking about his father, Benjamin, as he stood on the mound at Birmingham High on Wednesday night. His father died last December, and it got very emotional for him in the City Section Division I semifinal game against Chatsworth.
"This was the last place his dad saw him pitch," Coach Scott Drootin said. "He took a deep breath and looked to the sky and he finished it off."
Villa struck out Daniel Zakosek to end a 1-0 victory over the Chancellors and send Cleveland into Saturday's Division I final against El Camino Real at 1 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.
"It was tough, just the emotion," Villa said.
Villa sat in the dugout in tears. A teammate put his arm around him and told him how much his father would be proud of him.
Villa threw three shutout innings of relief after Ben Kaser shut out the Chancellors for four innings.
The game's only run was scored by Victor Gonzalez on a wild pitch in the third inning.
Cleveland played flawless defense behind its pitchers. Chatsworth pitchers Josh Garcia, Danny Hernandez and Niko Switalla pitched well. But Chatsworth could not take advantage of runners in scoring position three times after sacrifices.
Kaser and Villa kept making big pitches. And now Villa will likely get the start on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, a moment he and his teammates are grateful for.