The right-field fence at Chaminade High, set only 240 feet down the line, is tantalizingly close. But its 40-foot height makes it seem deceptively distant.
Chris DeCristo knows both sides of the fence. DeCristo, a left-handed hitter, entered the Eagles' game against St. Genevieve with three home runs over the fence and numerous shots off the top.
"Sometimes I hit the ball and start to jog thinking it's out," DeCristo said. "And then it hits the top of the fence."
There was no question about DeCristo's sixth-inning blast Friday, a three-run homer well over Chaminade's Metal Monster that propelled the Eagles to a 5-4 San Fernando Valley League victory over the Valiants. The victory kept the Eagles (9-11, 4-2) in a first-place tie with Notre Dame and dropped St. Genevieve (9-8, 3-3) a game off the pace.
"I knew that one was a goner," DeCristo said of his fourth home run.
And he showed it. DeCristo raised his arms triumphantly and punctuated his home run trot by repeatedly pointing at St. Genevieve pitcher Roland De La Maza.
"That was pure adrenaline," DeCristo said. "I apologized to him afterwards."
De La Maza, who has a team-high 17 runs batted in, had a chance for revenge in the seventh but was walked intentionally after Mike Cassidy stole second base with two out.
"I don't usually like to put the winning run on base, but the guy behind him isn't a real home run threat," Chaminade Coach Steve Costley said. Josh Smith ended the Valiants' threat by grounding out.
DeCristo, summoned for relief duty in the fifth, earned his second win. De La Maza (7-3) entered the game with a 1.17 earned-run average and 67 strikeouts in 54 innings. He allowed five earned runs on six hits and two walks in six innings and struck out six. Joe Cascione was four for four with a home run and three runs scored for St. Genevieve.
DeCristo, who struck out with runners on second and third in the first and tapped weakly to the mound in the fourth, waited his turn in the sixth as De La Maza walked the first two batters on eight pitches. De La Maza's first pitch to DeCristo was another ball, but his second, a fastball, was right down the middle of the plate.
"All I was thinking about was putting the bat on the ball," DeCristo said. "He was struggling and I had a hunch he would throw a fastball."