5-Run Rally in Final Frame Sinks Palmdale
Not surprisingly, Antelope Valley High baseball Coach Mike Van Cheri needed a moment to catch his breath after Friday’s Golden League game at home.
After all, the Antelopes had just scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to erase a four-run deficit, hand Palmdale a 9-8 loss and secure a berth in the Southern Section 3-A Division playoffs.
But it was a surprise that Van Cheri, in his first year as head coach, was still able to stand.
Antelope Valley (12-12, 8-7 in league) tied the score on Jack Cox’s grand slam, then reloaded the bases with two out before Matt Chaffin walked on a full count to force in the winning run.
Antelope Valley’s victory, coupled with Saugus’ 6-1 win over Canyon (11-12, 7-8), gave the Antelopes the league’s third and final playoff berth. Palmdale (12-8, 8-7) finished in a tie with Antelope Valley but earned the league’s second-place berth based on its two wins over the Antelopes.
“I really can’t believe it,” Van Cheri said, gasping for breath. “It was beyond my wildest dreams.”
The contest resembled a recurring nightmare for Van Cheri in the sixth. Palmdale erased a 4-2 deficit with six runs--four unearned--and looked as though it would score its third come-from-behind win over the Antelopes.
But Antelope Valley made a prophet of Van Cheri, who preached perseverance in his pregame pep talk.
“I told them to never, ever give up,” he said. “We had had two rotten games against them and we were due.”
Trailing, 8-4, Antelope Valley loaded the bases in the seventh on a walk and two singles. Cox, a junior catcher who was two for four with five runs batted in, followed with his third home run to tie the score, 8-8.
Jade Freeman (two for four) singled, and Tom Quinn, pinch-running for Freeman, advanced to second on B. J. Petersen’s single. Jeff Bishop forced Petersen at second for the second out, but Chris Tampoya (5-4) then walked Tony Abrams and Chaffin on full-count pitches.
Palmdale tried to put a lock on the game with its six-run sixth. Jeff Mapson tied the score at 4-4 with a two-run single, and, after the Falcons loaded the bases, they scored on a walk, a wild pitch and a two-run error for an 8-4 lead.
Antelope Valley, which tied the score, 1-1, on Cox’s single in the first, added two runs in the fourth when Bishop tripled home one run and scored on a wild pitch.
Palmdale made it 3-2 in the fifth on Travis Wilson’s RBI single. Antelope Valley countered in the bottom of the inning on Jeff Whiteford’s run-scoring single.
Antelope Valley’s Cox, Whiteford, Bishop and George Boykins each had two hits, and reliever Kevin Branch (3-4) earned the win.