SOUTHERN SECTION BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : 2-A : University Rallies for 4-3 Victory

Times Staff Writer

Oh the indignity University High School center fielder Jeff McGovern has had to endure this season.

The speedster lost his spot in the batting order when Trojan Coach Chris Conlin elevated sophomore Casey Simpson to the varsity team midway through the season and made him the designated hitter.

Simpson responded by hitting a sizzling .700 to lead University to the Sea View League championship, the Trojans' second in two years.

Well, McGovern found his way into the limelight Friday as he raced home with the winning run in the seventh inning to lead University to a 4-3 victory over Santiago in the CIF Southern Section 2-A playoffs.

McGovern was inserted as a pinch-runner and scored from second base with one out after Santiago center fielder Anthony Candelas was unable to handle a long fly ball hit by Trojan catcher Jeff Baker.

And who was McGovern sent into the game to pinch-run for? Casey Simpson.

"Jeff is one of the fastest players on the team," Conlin said. "He covers a lot of ground in the outfield. But when Casey came up and started hitting so well, I had to make room for him in the lineup."

McGovern's heroics helped the Trojans overcome three errors and helped Todd Krueger (6-7) gain the victory with a nine-strikeout performance. Krueger allowed only one earned run and walked three.

"I thought Todd threw one of his best games," Conlin said. "He scattered the hits and most of them were to the opposite field. With any kind of defensive support, he might have thrown a shutout.

"He threw only three innings as a junior last year, and he's been our entire pitching staff this season."

University took a 2-0 lead in the third inning with the aid of two Santiago errors and a bases-loaded walk. Krueger breezed into the fifth with a shutout, but Santiago first baseman Rick Burns lined a triple through the gap in right-center and scored when University mishandled the relay throw.

The Cavaliers took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning and, once again, Krueger was the victim of poor fielding. Right fielder Will Ferrell misplayed a single and second baseman Steve Keer couldn't handle a ground ball as the Cavaliers took control.

But University tied the score, 3-3, in the bottom of the sixth on pinch-hitter Brett Bradshaw's looping single over short that scored Baker. Krueger struck out Santiago catcher Joe Marquez with two on to end the seventh, leading to the Trojans' rally in the bottom of the inning.

"I feel very fortunate to beat a team as well-coached as Santiago," Conlin said. "I thought we had better players, but they executed all the mechanics so well. You'll notice almost every hit they had went to the opposite field.

"Some things went wrong for us offensively, but we kept battling. Since the middle of the season, we haven't given up, and that's the sign of a good team."

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