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Southern Section Baseball Playoffs : 4-A : The Empire Strikes Back, but It Also Strikes Out : Esperanza Knocks Off No. 1 Simi Valley

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Times Staff Writer

Tom Redington, Esperanza High School shortstop, didn’t get much to hit in Tuesday’s Southern Section 4-A semifinal game against Simi Valley, but he made the most of the one opportunity he had.

Redington, who walked his first three times up, hit a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift the Aztecs to a 6-5 win over the top-seeded Pioneers in front of an estimated 600 fans at Cal State Fullerton.

Esperanza (24-3-1) came back from 4-0 and 5-4 deficits to earn its first-ever berth in a baseball championship game. The Aztecs will play Fontana, a 1-0 winner over El Dorado Tuesday, at Dodger Stadium at 7:30 Saturday night.

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Trailing, 5-4, Kevin Clancy walked to open the sixth, stole second and advanced to third on a ground out. Redington then slammed Shaun Murphy’s 3-2 pitch over the fence in left-center to bring one long streak to an end and continue another.

Simi Valley, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, had won 19 straight. But for the 18th consecutive year, the No. 1 seed in the 4-A division will not win the title.

“We had been down before, but we knew we were never out of it,” said Redington, a junior who has nine homers this season. “We knew we had to get a little back at a time.”

The Pioneers (26-4) scored twice in the first inning on RBI singles by Murphy and Corey Aurand and added two more in the fourth on Paul Smith’s RBI double and Duane Mulville’s RBI single.

But the Aztecs got to Simi Valley starter Scott Radinsky in the bottom of the fourth. Emmitt Cohick opened with a long triple to center field, and pinch-runner Brent Bish scored on Bart Goldman’s RBI double.

Radinsky (14-1), who had struck out 30 in 20 playoff innings and threw 160 pitches in Friday’s complete-game, nine-inning win over Ocean View, walked two straight and was pulled in favor of Murphy, who yielded a sacrifice fly to Clancy.

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Esperanza tied the score, 4-4, in the fifth, thanks to two walks, a Cohick single, Goldman’s RBI fielder’s choice and Tim MacNeil’s RBI single. Goldman tried to score on MacNeil’s hit to right field but was thrown out at the plate by a perfect throw from Aurand to catcher Tim Laker.

The Pioneers went ahead in the sixth when Mulville homered to left field off MacNeil, who went the distance on a seven-hitter to improve to 8-0. That set the stage for Redington’s heroics and the Aztecs’ 10th come-from-behind victory of the season.

“The first three times, I had nothing to swing at,” said Redington, who has walked seven times in four playoff games. “But I got all of the last one. I thought I had hit it about as hard as I could, and I was thinking that it better go out.”

It did, but that didn’t guarantee the win.

The Pioneers had won each of their first three playoff games in their last at-bat, and they had the top of the order up in the ninth. But MacNeil got Von Herron to ground out, Mike Hankins to fly out and, after a walk to Murphy, Dave Milstien grounded out to end the game.

“We made every play we had to make, but they just beat us,” Simi Valley Coach Mike Scyphers said. “They came back against us twice, and that’s the mark of a good ballclub.”

The Pioneers did not lose for lack of defense. Milstien had four assists at shortstop, including three in which he had to charge high-bouncing grounders. Simi Valley turned a double play in the third inning, and Aurand made an outstanding throw to the plate to cut down Goldman in the fifth.

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“I don’t think we beat Simi Valley on a bad day,” Esperanza Coach Mike Curran said. “I just think they’re very human once they get the big kid (Radinsky) off the mound.”

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