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Defense Is the Difference as Fullerton Falls to Covina

Covina High School took advantage of three Fullerton defensive lapses to score three of its four runs and held on for a 4-3 victory in the Southern Section 4-A quarterfinals Friday at Fullerton College.

The Colts (23-5), who will play Redondo in the semifinals Tuesday, scored two runs in the third, one unearned. They scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings before Fullerton (20-8) narrowed the gap with single runs in the fifth and seventh.

Paul Branconier (9-2), who was nearly lifted from the game in the fifth inning after he walked in a run, scattered five hits for the victory.

"(Branconier) was down to his last batter after he walked home the run,” Covina Coach Dave Barret said. “If Paul didn’t retire that batter (Bill Reicks), that would have been it for him. But Paul kept his cool and stopped them when he needed to do so.”

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Martin Luczaj, Fullerton coach, said: “We didn’t lose the game because of our lack of effort. . . . We made several defensive lapses, and we didn’t get the big hits when we needed them.”

Fullerton took a 1-0 lead in the first. With one out, Vince Chavira lined a double down the right-field line. After Jeff Manship popped to second, Colin Milligan tripled to right-center to score Chavira.

Indian starter Greg Wilber (3-1) allowed a single to Jim Holmes and a double to Randy Solar to start the Covina third. After Wilber retired Jason Patten on an infield popup, Steve Barron lofted a long fly ball to center fielder John Bailey to score Holmes from third.

Randy Solar, who advanced to third after the catch, scored when Bailey’s throw sailed past third baseman Chavira.

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With one out in the Covina fourth, Pete DeSimoni doubled and Mike Solar, Randy’s brother, walked. With both runners well off their bases, Fullerton catcher Steve DePhillips threw to first trying to pick off Mike Solar. However, instead of heading back for first, Solar went to second safely and DeSimoni third before first baseman Milligan could make a play.

Rick Steed then scored DeSimoni with a single.

Kurt Hindman, who replaced Wilber after he walked Mike Solar in the fourth, retired the first two hitters he faced in the fifth. But Ron Lashl reached base when his one-bouncer was misplayed by Milligan for an error. Lashly, who went to third on Branconier’s single, scored on DeSimoni’s single to give Covina a 4-1 lead.

Branconier retired the first two hitters he faced in the fifth. But he walked Chavira, Manship and Milligan to load the bases.

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After a visit by Barret, Branconier walked Bailey on four pitches to score Chavira.

Branconier, however, came back to retire Bill Reicks on a fly ball to end the threat and keep him in the game.

Fullerton scored an unearned run in the seventh to narrow Covina’s lead to one run. Chavira, who reached first when shortstop Randy Solar kicked his high bouncer to start the inning, went to second on Branconier’s balk. After he went to third on Manship’s fly ball to right, he scored on Milligan’s infield out.

Branconier then retired John Bailey on a fly ball to right to end the game and Fullerton’s season.

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