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Kennedy Dances, but Not for Joy, After 2-1 Defeat

Many members of the Kennedy High baseball team danced all night Friday after the Golden Cougars’ City 4-A playoff opener against Banning.

As soon as the game ended, many of the defending City 4-A champs left the field at Banning and headed directly to the Bonaventure Hotel for the junior-senior prom.

Everything was waiting for them at the prom. The corsages for their dates, their tuxedos, and their boutonnieres.

Apparently, the only thing Kennedy failed to prepare for was the game against Banning. The Pilots avenged last season’s 10-9 loss to Kennedy in the championship game with a 2-1 win Friday at Banning.

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The defeat ends the season for Kennedy, which closes out 1986 with an 11-8 record. Banning (19-5) advances to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, playing host to Poly, a 9-8 winner Friday over El Camino Real.

“We hadn’t been practicing too well,” said Kennedy shortstop Kevin Farlow, who won last season’s City title game with a home run in the bottom of the seventh inning against Banning. “I think some of our guys just thought we were going to walk through the playoffs. We seemed a little lax coming in on the bus.”

Banning scored the game-winning run in the fourth inning. Pilots’ shortstop John Smith broke a 1-1 tie with a two-out run-scoring single to left field off Jaime Ponce, who had replaced Kennedy starter Eric Evans (4-3). Smith’s hit drove in Archie Jean from third base.

Kennedy managed only three hits off Banning pitcher Rick Sasseen (10-2), who earned the win with a complete game and a season-high eight strikeouts.

“If you can throw a decent curveball in high school, you’re going to get guys out,” said Kennedy Coach Dick Whitney. “Today, Sasseen threw his curve for strikes.”

The senior right-hander also threw a newly developed slider at the Golden Cougars.

“We clinched our league title with three games left in the regular season,” said Sasseen, who was the Marine League co-Most Valuable Player along with Banning catcher Mando Ponce. “I learned to throw the slider right before the start of the playoffs and that’s what I used today to get a lot of the strikeouts.”

Kennedy looked nothing like the team that turned around a 2-7 start in the Mid-Valley League with six straight wins.

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Kennedy struck first in the second inning when Todd Davis led off with a single, moved to second base on a balk and scored one out later on Robert Trujillo’s double down the left-field line. But that was all that Kennedy could muster against Sasseen, who retired the next 11 batters in order.

“Unfortunately, we played today like we’ve been practicing,” Whitney said. “All those things that we did in previous games we didn’t do today.”

Banning Coach Dan Evans downplayed the fact that his team had beaten the defending City champion in the playoff opener.

“I’ll beat the Girl Scouts and be just as happy,” Evans said. “We were 3-1 last year against Valley teams. This year, we hope to go 4-0.”

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Banning tied the game in the second inning. With one out and runners at first and third, Jean hit a ground ball to Farlow, who flipped the ball to second baseman Kevin Wittke for the force, but Wittke’s throw to first base was late, allowing Anthony Acosta to score from third.

Wittke was the only other Kennedy player to get a hit.


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