Defense Lifts Katella Over Alemany
The notion of being cornered appealed to Jim Ozella, who, before Tuesday’s game, implied that his young Alemany High baseball team might attack favored Katella with the ferocity of a trapped animal.
Just four days before, Alemany had turned the corner in an otherwise lackluster season with an upset of second-seeded Millikan in the first round of the Southern Section 5-A Division playoffs.
Alemany started strongly in Tuesday’s second-round game but was ultimately foiled by Katella third baseman Dennis Briggs. A late Alemany rally was snuffed by a double play started by Briggs and the upstart Indians fell, 7-4, at College of the Canyons.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth and Alemany trailing, 6-2, the Indians loaded the bases. Katella starter Chris Drummond walked the final batter he faced, forcing in Leo Tejada. Danny Allen replaced Drummond and freshman Andy Dominique singled in Greg Thompson to cut the lead to 6-4.
The count went full before the next batter, Bobby Ordona, rapped a hard shot at Briggs, who turned, got the force at third and gunned down Ordona at first.
“That was a big-time play because we were right there hanging on the edge,” Katella Coach Tim McMenamin said. Briggs, a junior who committed just one error in 15 Empire League games, also made a backhanded stab and spectacular off-balance throw to record the first out in the third.
Alemany (14-15) scored in the first when Tejada singled in Joey Rosselli, who had doubled. Katella responded with single runs in the second and the fourth.
Tejada drove the first pitch of the fourth inning over the fence in left, forging a short-lived 2-2 tie.
Aided by sloppy defensive play and a two-run single by Jess Evans, Katella (22-5) scored three runs in the decisive fifth.
“We really fell apart in the infield a little bit,” Ozella said.
Eddie Bushey, who replaced Robert Nary in the fifth, was charged with the loss. Both Bushey (1-2) and Nary are freshmen who were promoted to the varsity a month ago after two players were ruled academically ineligible.
“I’d rather be playing a senior,” Ozella conceded, “but this was out of necessity. Since we’ve brought these guys up, we’ve played better.”