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Sylmar Blows 8-4 Lead, Then Game

Times Staff Writer

In a wind-blown, sun-bleached brawl of a game, Sylmar took an early lead, then lowered its defense and lost, 11-8, in the first round of the City 4-A baseball playoffs Friday.

Sylmar, which finished the season 13-8, took an 8-4 lead at Narbonne in Harbor City. But Narbonne tied the score with four runs in the fifth inning and went ahead with three more in the eighth.

Narbonne (11-5) committed six errors early, but it was Sylmar’s miscues late in the game that proved more costly.

“We kind of played this way the last round of the season, making errors and giving away runs. I’m not sure why,” said Sylmar Coach John Klitsner. “We had the game in hand and just didn’t have the tenacity to put them away. We played like a very mediocre ballclub.”

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The game opened on the wild side. Sylmar leadoff man Brent Packer walked and scored the first of his three runs on a sacrifice, stolen base and ground out.

But the Gauchos came back with two runs on a leadoff hit, sacrifice, error, wild pitch and sacrifice fly.

The Spartans tied it in the second inning without a hit, using a walk to Mark Girard, two steals and an error to produce a run.

Then things got interesting. Sylmar scored three in the third on singles by Packer and Carlos Armendarez, a double by Biff McGahan on a misjudged fly to right, an error, a walk to Rick Diaz and a suicide squeeze that Girard beat out for a hit.

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Narbonne then made the key personnel move of the game, replacing pitcher Ron Matthews with Anthony Del Rio. Del Rio allowed three runs over the next two innings but didn’t give up any after the fourth, and was even more instrumental at the plate.

The Gauchos got two runs back in the third on Juan Avila’s leadoff homer and an RBI double by John Ramirez. Then after the Spartans built an 8-4 lead, Del Rio keyed Narbonne’s comeback in the fifth.

Sylmar opened the gates with a walk and two errors to open the inning. Ramirez knocked in two runs with a single, catcher Brian Park doubled, and Del Rio tied the game with a two-run single.

Ramirez got his third hit of the game in the sixth inning and scored the game-winner on Park’s single. Del Rio then iced it with a high fly ball that fell between the fielders in right center. Del Rio took advantage of a poor relay to leg out a home run.

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Right field, which faced a bright sun as well as a strong breeze, proved a puzzle for both sides, but Klitsner had sympathy only for junior pitcher McGahan, whose fielders committed three errors.

“He’s not that bad if we make the plays behind him,” Klitsner said. “He pitched a couple extra innings because we were giving them six outs.”

Of the outfield botches Klitsner said, “You make those plays if you’re a good ballclub. Those balls should have been caught.”

Del Rio pitched the last 4 innings for the victory. Sylmar finished with six hits to 13 for Narbonne. The Gauchos, incredibly, survived six errors, three by shortstop Avila.

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That also bothered Klitsner. “That’s our style game, to make things happen and force the other team to make mistakes,” he said. “We had them down, but they were a little stronger offensively and took advantage.”

Packer led the Spartans with two hits, three runs, two stolen bases and an RBI. Outfielder Greg Raskopf had a double and an RBI.

For Narbonne, Ramirez had three hits and four RBIs, and Del Rio had two hits and four RBIs. Del Rio matched McGahan with three strikeouts.


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