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City Baseball Semifinals : Venice Reaches 3-A Final for Second Year in Row, 12-5

Venice, propelled by a 400-foot home run by first baseman Colin Franker, scored six runs in the bottom of the third inning and went on to defeat Los Angeles, 12-5, Friday afternoon at West L.A. College, advancing to the City 3-A baseball title game at Dodger Stadium for the second year in a row.

The Gondoliers, who beat Westchester, 3-2, to take the championship in 1984, were behind going into the third as Los Angeles pitcher Doyle Balthazar hit a long home run himself to make it 3-1. Facing Balthazar, however, they got three walks, four hits and six runs to go ahead for good.

They came back in the fourth inning and scored another three runs on three hits to take a 10-3 lead with Balthazar still pitching. He was not taken out until the fifth inning, when the Gondoliers hit him for their final two runs.

Franker, who also singled and was walked intentionally before grounding to first in his last at-bat, came to the plate in the third inning with teammate Mike Sanders on third and one out, that being Carl Jackson’s run-scoring sacrifice fly. Franker, batting left-handed, then sent a Balthazar fastball over the center-field fence.

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Venice’s opponent in the championship game will be Palisades, a 9-4 winner over Westchester at Harbor College in the other semifinal Friday.

Leonard Matsumato went 3 for 5 and drove in three runs and pitched a couple innings in relief of winner Ted Kaye (7-3) to lead Palisades. Third baseman Eric Beckerman also went 3 for 5, while catcher John Dolak added two doubles and two RBIs in four at-bats.

Both 4-A Division games were much closer--and apparently much more heated--as Kennedy of Granada Hills and Banning advanced to the title game.

The latter, after scoring 10 runs in the first three innings, held on for a 12-11 victory at Loyola Marymount despite Granada Hills scoring six runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game. But Banning needed only two batters--and Granada Hills’ seventh error--to win the game in the bottom of the inning.

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Robert Aceves led off with a walk and went to third on a single by Danny Garcia. Granada Hills starter Tony Beneduce came in to relieve Leo Clouser via the re-entry rule, and quickly got a strike on the first batter he faced, Jose Diaz. Then Beneduce tried to pick off Garcia at first, but the throw was wild, and Aceves scored the winning run.

Kennedy, behind the four-hit pitching of Eric Evans and Sandy Sreden, upset top-seeded Chatsworth for its ninth straight win, 4-2, at Cal State Northridge in the other semifinal. But the final out did not mean the end of the action, as emotions were so high that the two teams nearly started fighting during the Golden Cougars’ victory celebration.

“They didn’t think they could lose,” Kennedy shortstop Greg Synnott said. “Well, we stuffed it in their faces. I hope they have good seats at Dodger Stadium.”

Both championship games are Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

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