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El Camino Real Out For Real; Granada Wins

Times Staff Writer

Most of the faces and names have changed, but the results were the same.

Granada Hills High, which defeated El Camino Real in last year’s City 4-A championship baseball game at Dodger Stadium, turned the trick again Friday afternoon at Granada Hills, downing the Conquistadores, 9-4, in the first round of the playoffs.

Left fielder Scott Stewart and pitcher Tony Beneduce, neither of whom played in last year’s title game, led the way this time around.

Stewart had the key hit in the game, a three-run triple in a six-run fourth inning, after the Highlanders trailed, 1-0.

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Beneduce allowed 11 hits and walked three, but got outs when he needed them most in improving his record to 4-2.

The win moves the defending champions into the quarterfinals on Tuesday where they will meet Narbonne, an 11-8 winner over Sylmar.

Granada Hills was originally scheduled to play Canoga Park in the first round, but Wednesday Sid Thompson, the associate superintendent of the Los Angeles City School District, reinstated five of El Camino Real’s West Valley League wins that had been forfeited due to the use of an ineligible player.

The move put the Conquistadores back in the playoffs and removed Canoga Park, which incensed Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh who said Thursday, “There is no direction in the system. There are no rules. There are rules, but people break them and get away with it.”

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And, even after Friday’s game, he had not changed his thinking.

“It doesn’t matter that we won,” he said. “I’m still mad about the same thing I was yesterday. We weren’t suppose to play this team. We practiced and prepared for another team and that’s who we should have played. Because we won anyway, doesn’t make things right.”

But Stroh was pleased with the play of his team.

“We played a good game today, probably the best in a long time,” he said.

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“We played good defense, we hit the ball well enough, and our pitching got us by. Tony (Beneduce) sometimes didn’t look like he was in control out there, but he’ll sometimes look like he’s struggling because of the type of pitcher he is. He nibbles at the corners and when he’s missing those corners he sometimes gets in trouble.”

El Camino Real had a runner reach base in every inning but the first. The Conquistadores took a 1-0 lead in the third on two singles, a walk and a fielder’s choice.

Beneduce would have been touched up for at least one more run in the fourth had it not been for a good defensive play by Stewart, who a half-inning later would become the game’s hitting star.

Tony Schwartz of El Camino Real led off the inning by lining Beneduce’s first pitch down the left-field line, but he was thrown out by Stewart when he tried to stretch it into a double. One out later, Brien Pogue and Rob Bumgarner had back-to-back singles, one of which would have scored Schwartz.

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Granada Hills got all the runs it needed in the fourth on four singles, a sacrifice bunt, an error and Stewart’s bases-loaded triple.

Designated-hitter Bob Allen led off with a single. Scott Tosti followed with what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt, but Conquistadore pitcher Drew Ricker fielded the ball and tried, in vain, to get Allen at second. Skip Close moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt.

Leo Clouser followed with an RBI single to right, scoring Allen, with Tosti holding at third. Mark Kessler then hit a high hopper that shortstop Chris Bosson bobbled for an error.

That loaded the bases for Bobby Olsen, who promptly hit a line drive off Ricker’s glove for an RBI single to give the Highlanders the lead.

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After Greg Fowble grounded into a force out at the plate, Dan Takahashi slapped a single to left, scoring another run. With the bases loaded and two out, that left things up to Stewart, who fell behind on the count 0-2 before clearing the bases by unloading a long drive that two-hopped the fence and landed in the ivy in right-center field for a ground-rule triple.

“With the count 0-2 our rule is, look fastball, adjust for the curve,” Stewart said. “He gave me a fastball and I got all of it.”

The Highlanders added another run in the fifth before putting the game away with two runs on a bizarre play in the sixth.

Chad Markey, pinch-hitting for Olsen, led off the inning with a single to right. Pinch-runner Dean Yoshitani then took second on a wild pitch and third on a ground out, bringing up Takahashi with one out.

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Stroh called for a squeeze play on the first pitch, but Yoshitani broke from third too soon and Ricker pitched out. Takahashi, however, went out with the pitch, slapping it back to Ricker as the run scored. Ricker, surprised that the ball had been hit at all, picked it up and threw it down the right-field line. Takahashi scored on what was a four-base error.

And so it went for El Camino Real, which practiced Thursday for the first time in a week.


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