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Saugus Cuts Norco Rally Short, 9-8

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chris Hernandez and Doug Maggiora, two skinny, 16-year-old Saugus High pitchers, probably couldn’t cultivate a decent five o’clock shadow between them.

But both escaped with a close shave in the sixth inning Tuesday as Saugus nearly squandered a seven-run lead before holding off visiting Norco for a 9-8 victory in the second round of the Southern Section 3-A Division baseball playoffs.

Hernandez, a sophomore left-hander, and Maggiora, a sidearming junior right-hander, have performed this season much like a patented double-blade shaving system. Routinely, Hernandez has worked the first four or five innings before yielding to Maggiora, who has cut down the opposition from there.

Against Norco, the pair performed as usual--and with initial success--as Hernandez turned in perhaps his best performance of the season for five innings.

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Hernandez (7-2), celebrating his 16th birthday, yielded only two hits--both in the first inning--and retired 12 of the next 16 batters he faced as Saugus (20-5-1) took a 9-2 lead into the sixth.

However, Norco (19-9) struck for a leadoff double and a single in the sixth. Hernandez struck out the next batter but walked the next two to force in a run. He then left in favor of Maggiora, who made his 22nd appearance of the season.

“He cruised through five,” Saugus Coach Doug Worley said. “And then he just stopped.”

Hernandez finished with five strikeouts and six walks. “It looked like I did the job on them,” he said. “But I kind of lost control.”

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Maggiora walked the first batter he faced, hit the next one, then allowed a two-run single. Four batters later--the Cougars had 12 in the inning--Maggiora retired pinch-hitter Lance Slominski on a deep fly ball to left to end the six-run salvo.

In the seventh, with the potential tying run on third and two out, Maggiora struck out Sergio Bettancourt on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.

Norco scored two runs in the first and Saugus countered with with three in the bottom of the inning. Jeff Albert, who was three for three and scored three runs, delivered a run-scoring single to open Saugus’ scoring.

Saugus will play La Serna in a quarterfinal Friday.

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