Southern Section Baseball Playoffs : Saugus Discovers New Style in 7-3 Win

Times Staff Writer

It’s fun to watch some of those monsters with bulging biceps slam the ball high into the night, but those same monsters often end up watching two other teams in the championship.

Pitching and defense are what often win baseball championships. Just ask anyone from the hitting-rich, pitching-poor Boston Red Sox of the 1970s.

Saugus High, which has flirted with a .360 team average for most of the season, has made like a chameleon. Saugus has turned itself into a team that has dominated its Southern Section playoff opponents with sparkling defense and impressive pitching.


On Friday at Sproul Field in Saugus, the Centurions played flawless defense and received a solid effort on the mound by Kent Gustaveson to upset third-seeded Norte Vista, 7-3, in a 2-A quarterfinal.

Saugus will meet Montclair, a 4-3 winner over Glenn, in a Tuesday semifinal at a site to be determined. The winner of that game advances to the championship at Dodger Stadium next Saturday against the winner of the other semifinal between Mission Viejo and Artesia.

The Centurions (19-7) are in the semifinals because of defense. On Friday, they did not commit an error, while Norte Vista (22-7) stumbled all over itself for a season-high six errors leading to four unearned runs.

“I think our pitching and defense just got overlooked,” Gustaveson said. “Now we’re starting to show everybody that we’re better than they thought we were.”

In the first round, Gustaveson teamed with pitchers George Aliano and Roger Salkeld on a one-hitter against La Mirada. Dennis Moran hurled a one-hitter in the second round to upset No. 5 Capistrano Valley.

Against Norte Vista, Gustaveson (6-2) gave up six hits but had little trouble until the fifth, when he gave up a single to Fred Lopez, a run-scoring double by Mike Ramos and a two-run homer to junior pitcher Willie Navarette (13-3), which tied the game, 3-3.

The Centurions came back in their half of the fifth to score four times with the aid of two Braves errors. Bryan Riley provided the key blow with a two-run single to left, giving Saugus a 6-3 lead.

Gustaveson, again provided with a lead, retired six of the last seven batters he faced to secure the win.

Chris Joy and Moran paced Saugus’ 10-hit attack. Joy, who was 2 for 4, broke the school’s career hit record of 79 with a single in the fifth. Moran was 3 for 4 with two runs batted in.

Navarette, an All-Southern Section left-hander, entered the game with a 1.07 earned-run average and a 25-5 career record, but couldn’t compensate for his team’s play in the field.