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Gibson Escapes Jittery First Inning to Shut Out Westlake-Agoura, 10-0

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Five pitches into the top of the first inning of Thursday’s American Legion Area 6 playoff game against Westlake-Agoura, Woodland Hills West right-hander Lance Gibson had already given up two singles--a liner to left and a hit-and-run single to right.

Batting third, with a statistical portfolio as thick as the barrel of his aluminum bat, was Mike Lieberthal, who strode to the batter’s box with an area-high 12 home runs and 51 runs batted in.

Was Gibson a tad skittish? Uh-huh. Shoot, he was wobbly before Lieberthal stepped in.

“I went in real nervous,” Gibson admitted. “Then I go and give up two hits to the first two batters. I had to really bear down.”

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Not only did Gibson escape the first inning without a scratch, he allowed just two singles over the final seven innings as West defeated Westlake-Agoura, 10-0, in a game called after eight innings because of the 10-run rule.

Woodland Hills West (24-3) plays Santa Monica in a second-round game at Birmingham today at 4 p.m. Westlake-Agoura (28-4-4) faces Panorama City today at 12:30.

Gibson (8-1) faced only 24 batters over the final seven innings, striking out six and walking three. After allowing two hits in five pitches, he allowed just two more over the next 101. It was the first time District 16 champion Westlake-Agoura had been blanked this season.

These were not the only Westlake-Agoura numbers that were rearranged. Starting pitcher Bob Grandpre was unbeaten in nine decisions, and he gave up six runs in two innings and took the loss. Lieberthal struck out twice and went 0 for 3. First baseman Brian Smith, who had 10 homers and 39 RBIs heading into the playoffs, did likewise.

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Only leadoff batter Mike Suarez, who singled twice and walked, had what could be termed a successful day against Gibson. Then again, Gibson had two hits himself. Suarez was stranded three times for his trouble.

“That was probably the best I’ve ever pitched,” said Gibson, a sophomore at College of the Canyons who had surgery on his right shoulder last March. “After that start, I was in pretty good shape.”

After West took a 1-0 lead in the first, Gibson started the rout in the second inning with a one-out single to right. Ricky Banuelos and Paul Geller singled to load the bases, and one out later, Del Marine doubled in two runs with a gapper to left-center.

Jason Cohen then drilled a three-run homer to left for a 6-0 lead.

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Cohen may have had trouble identifying Grandpre, but he had no such problem identifying his pitches.

“We were starting to get to that kid,” he said in reference to Grandpre. “We knew that if he kept getting the ball up to the Nos. 3-4-5 hitters, someone would take him deep.”

Cohen, who also doubled in the eighth, finished with four RBIs after adding a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Marine was two for three with two doubles and Bobby Kim added two hits and two RBIs.

Gibson coasted through the middle innings, facing the minimum number of batters in the second, third, fourth and sixth. Westlake-Agoura managed a minor threat in the seventh after a one-out walk to Smith and a single by Grandpre--the first since the second batter of the game--but Grandpre was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. Smith was stranded when Zac Miller flied out.

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Cohen admitted he was surprised that the score was so lopsided, but said the outcome was predictable.

“I think they came in a little overconfident,” Cohen said. “And maybe they’re a little overrated. But they’re a good ballclub and if we played them again, this wouldn’t happen again. We’d win, but probably not like this.”

After the first inning, Cohen said he knew the game was in hand.

“The minute he got Lieberthal, I knew it was over,” Cohen said. “That could have been the hit that broke our back, but instead, we did it to them.”

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Can the first inning be this pivotal? You bet.

“We start with a leadoff hit, then get the hit-and-run single,” Westlake-Agoura Coach Chuck Thompson said. “Then we don’t see another one for a while. By then it was just about over.”

NO MERCY

Tim Costic has three hits as Panorama City advances in the Area 6 playoffs with a 10-0 win over Hollywood. Page 22

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