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5-Run Rally in Final Frame Sinks Palmdale

TIMES STAFF WRITER

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.


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