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Village Christian Eliminates Fillmore : Prep baseball: Crusaders make their own breaks in advancing to Southern Section 1-A Division championship game.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Showing little sign of fatigue, Mark Vail gleefully shook the hands of Village Christian High teammates and parents Tuesday.

The display was a testimony to the resilience of youth because minutes earlier Vail had used that right arm to throw his 145th--and final--pitch of a 12-5 victory over Fillmore in a Southern Section 1-A Division baseball semifinal at Birmingham High.

“It’s feeling sore,” he conceded. “But I just psyched myself up.”

Hit-happy Village Christian took a similar approach in strong-arming its way into the title game. Village Christian (18-6) will play Alpha League rival Montclair Prep (23-3), a 2-0 winner over Paraclete, for the 1-A championship Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Blair Field in Long Beach.

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Vail (5-0) yielded just five hits but walked 11 batters. However, because of the offense generated by his teammates, he was seldom in real trouble.

The scoring punch came almost exclusively from the top of the order. Herb Gonzalez, Matt Smay, Matt Henzie and Paul Gatlin--Village Christian’s first four batters--were a combined 11 for 15 with three walks and eight runs scored.

Henzie, son of Crusader Coach Mike Henzie, was four for four, including a triple, scored three runs and drove in five. Gonzalez was three for three and scored three times.

Fillmore starter Steve Palmer (9-2) allowed five hits and five runs before he was replaced by Anthony Chessani with one out in the second.

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Chessani had similar luck--all bad. The Crusaders, who held a 6-1 lead after two innings, scored four runs in the third and one each in the fourth and sixth.

With two out in the bottom of the third, Thor Martin, Village Christian’s No. 9 batter, singled. Gonzalez, Smay, Henzie and Gatlin followed with consecutive singles. The inning ended when Gatlin was caught in a rundown between first and second.

Matt Bates scored on a single by Panos Panay in the fourth and on a passed ball in the sixth.

“We weren’t disciplined,” Fillmore Coach Tom Ecklund said. “We had a lot of opportunities we didn’t take advantage of.”

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Indeed, Fillmore (19-4) stranded 11 and eight batters struck out.

Mike Kozar, Chessani, Art Sosa, Ramiro Moreno and Juan Duran scored for Fillmore.

Village Christian, which made the playoffs as a wild-card team after finishing third in league play, endured a four-game losing streak midway through the season. The slump did not discourage its coach.

“I told the guys, ‘This is just getting us ready to go all the way,’ ” Henzie said.

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