Mission College of Santa Clara didn’t do a very good job of scouting College of the Canyons’ Frank Halcovich before its first game of the state championship tournament.
Halcovich likes high fastballs, and in each of his five at-bats that was what he saw.
Only once did Mission pitchers get Halcovich out--on a second-inning line drive to the warning track in left. The freshman from Granada Hills High hit safely his next four at-bats, climaxed by a ninth-inning grand slam of Canyons’ 10-6 victory on Fresno State’s Beiden Field.
It was Halcovich’s second home run of the day and ninth of the season. He also hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, had an RBI single in the fifth and a double in the fourth to give him seven RBIs in the game and 46 this season.
“He’s been great all year,” Canyons Coach Mike Gillespie said of Halcovich. “But even for him, today was an exceptional day.”
Halcovich’s heroics were practically the only thing that prevented Canyons (29-13), the Mountain Valley Conference champion, from losing to Mission (32-10), the Coast Conference champion and winner of 19 straight.
The Cougars, as usual, played sloppy defense, committing four errors, all after the fifth inning. The errors, combined with some missed signs, helped Mission rally from a 6-3 deficit after seven innings and tie the score with two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth.
The errors and mental mistakes also made Gillespie a very dissatisfied winning coach.
“This was not a very gratifying win,” he said. “We did things well physically and we hit well, but I take no pride in the way we played.
“We had two or three missed signs out there and couldn’t get bunts down when we needed to. Mission really outplayed us in terms of execution. We just won because we have better personnel.”
Canyons, which trailed, 2-0, after the first inning, had a 6-3 lead going into the top of the eighth. Then starting pitcher Chris Pollack tired and walked two batters with one out. Chris Lasaca, the first batter to walk, took third on a passed ball and scored on an infield out, and another run scored when the Saints’ Mike Ham singled. After Ham’s hit, Gillespie replaced left-hander Pollack with Greg Mayer.
With one out in the ninth, Mission’s Ron Alvarado and Ron Lozan singled. Then Canyons’ third baseman Bill Bluhm misplayed Manual Gonzalez’s hard-hit ground ball for an error, allowing Alvarado to score the tying run. Mayer, who got the win to improve his record to 3-0, got Lasaca to hit into a double play to end the inning.
Losing pitcher Dave Rowe (10-0) walked Rocco Buffolino to start the Canyons’ ninth, and was replaced by right-hander Frank Gonzalez.
Don Erickson followed with a hit-and-run single to move pinch-runner Chris Goda to third. Bill Bluhm, who earlier in the game singled in a run when Rowe was trying to intentionally walk him, was intentionally walked this time, loading the bases for Halcovich. Mission Coach Sam Piraro decided to move left fielder Chris Chiaboya behind the mound, leaving Mission with five infielders and two outfielders. The unusual defensive alignment didn’t have an effect on the outcome, however, because Halcovich hit a 3-1 pitch off the scoreboard in left.
Canyons will play top-seeded Cerritos (36-5), a winner over College of Marin (23-14), in a second-round game today at 3 p.m. in Fresno City College’s John Euless Park.
State Tournament Notes
Canyons Coach Mike Gillespie on his team’s chances of beating Cerritos if it makes four errors and misses as many signs as it did against Mission: “We wouldn’t have a prayer. If we play against Cerritos like we did today, I’ll be looking for a place to hide”.
Cerritos and Canyons have played three times this season, the South Coast Conference champion Falcons winning twice. Cerritos will start right-hander Dave Serrano (11-1), who had both wins over the Cougars, today against Frank Halcovich (8-4), who had Canyons’ only win over Cerritos. . . . Canyons, which had 14 hits against Mission, got three from right fielder Bill Carlson and two from shortstop Don Erickson. . . . Tony Ciccone stole a base in the third inning to give him 38 this season. In other first-round action Thursday, Laney College (30-9) defeated Oxnard (26-11), 8-3.