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3-A BASEBALL : Orange’s Sixth-Inning Rally Eliminates Santiago

Orange High School baseball Coach Ed Howard was able to save his ace for another day.

The Panthers dealt Howard a winning hand Tuesday by scoring three runs in the sixth inning to beat Santiago, 4-3, in the second round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs.

And Orange did it without having to use its best pitcher, Ruben Hernandez, who had pitched a one-hitter against Newport Harbor in the first round last Friday.

Curveball specialist Josh Belovski held Santiago to three runs in four innings before giving way to reliever John Martinolich.

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Before Orange came to bat in the sixth inning, trailing 3-1, Howard pulled his players aside for a huddle in front of the dugout.

“They were tired, but I told them I’d rather seem them tired than watching TV this week,” Howard said. “I didn’t want them to be reading about the rest of the playoffs in the paper.”

The pep talk paid off. Orange shortstop Greg Folsom led off the inning with a single, and Jason Smith and Rich Prater followed with singles to load the bases.

The next batter, Hernandez, hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Marco Perez, who got the force at second but threw wildly to first for an error. Two runs scored on the play, tying the score.

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Two batters later, Jesus Romo’s sacrifice fly drove in Hernandez with the go-ahead run.

Santiago (18-8), which had won several one-run games this season, ran out of comebacks in the seventh, when Martinolich (8-0) retired the side in order.

Mike Kissell (7-4) took the loss for Santiago, which was making its first playoff appearance since 1968.

Orange started the season 2-7, but has won eight in a row and 14 of 16 since moving Folsom from third base to shortstop over spring break.

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Folsom played a major role Tuesday, handling nine tough chances without an error.

“Our defense has been flawless,” Howard said. “I can remember only two errors as a team since Easter break.”

First baseman Romo also made several nice plays on low throws, and center fielder Jeff Peterson robbed Santiago’s Enele Scanlan of a hit with a diving catch in the sixth.


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