Irvine's Vaqueros didn't play a game with Dana Hills, they played out a horror movie plot. A Nightmare on Walnut Avenue. Just when the hero has burnt up the maniac and thrown him off a balcony--just when the soothing music starts and he thinks he can relax--out jumps the maniac again, bladed fingers gleaming.
Somehow, somewhere, the Dolphins were out there creeping up on Irvine, and the Vaqueros had to fight them off.
Trailing by 3-0 in the seventh and two outs away from losing, Dana Hills shattered the peace of six uneventful innings Friday. It came back from the dead in the seventh, tying the score, 3-3, before Irvine could escape in the eighth with the victory, 4-3.
As George Kouture, who drove in Irvine's winning run, said, "No lead is too safe, no matter what it is."
He should know. In one game, Kouture's team had a 7-1 lead, only to lose to Mission Viejo, 12-9. Another time, the Vaqueros led El Dorado, 12-1, but gave up seven runs in the seventh and held on to win, 12-8. Like a bad dream, that sequence seemed close to recurring Friday.
Said Dana Hills Coach Bob Canary, "We were asleep for seven innings, then all of a sudden . . . "
Irvine's Kevin Obergfell, who had allowed only two hits in six innings, mysteriously lost control of his pitches.
Obergfell gave up a single to pinch-hitter Mike Oetinger. He then walked Ron Openshaw and Greg Erickson, loading the bases. Four balls later, he had walked in Oetinger. Obergfell was relieved by freshman John Bretza. Denny Papp's single scored Openshaw from third, and Erickson easily scored when the shortstop threw to second instead of home.
With the score tied, 3-3, in the eighth, Terry Karahmatalla tripled. Dana Hills then intentionally walked the next two batters, loading the bases. Koutures, the leadoff batter, drove in Karahmatalla.
"I think he got tired," Irvine Coach Bob Flint said of his starting pitcher, Obergfell. "He's a young pitcher, and he pitched six good innings. (Bretza) came in and really did a good job."
Bretza improved his record to 3-3. Jay Hollis, who went the distance for Dana Hills, slipped to 3-4.
Flint was asked whether Irvine's 15-9 loss to Dana Hills earlier in the week had generated any extra determination in the Vaqueros.
"No, it was over and done with," he said.
The Vaqueros tied Dana Hills for second place in the South Coast League. Both teams have 5-4 league records.
Flint can now look forward to chasing league front-runner Capistrano Valley, a team he says "is on another planet." But with the way things have been going, you can bet Flint will spend a lot of time looking over his shoulder.
In other South Coast League games:
Capistrano Valley 1, El Toro 0--Brett Snyder, a senior right-hander, pitched a one-hitter, and Tommy Adams led off the third with a home run for the Cougars (8-1, 17-2) at Capistrano Valley. The only hit off Snyder was a single in the fourth.
Mission Viejo 3, San Clemente 0--Jack Bailey (6-2) pitched a two-hitter and struck out 12 for the Diablos at San Clemente. Phil Houston went 2 for 4 with a double, Dwayne Lee went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run and Tony Arnone went 3 for 4 with two RBIs to lead Mission Viejo (5-4, 14-4). San Clemente is 0-9.