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SOUTHERN SECTION BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : 3-A DIVISION : Tustin Stops Dreaming, Starts Hitting in 14-5 Win

Last year, Tustin High School’s baseball players spent so much time chasing a fantasy that reality--in the form of fastballs--kept passing them by.

This season, the Tillers kept their minds on the game at hand, and, as a result, Tustin’s fantasy--to play for the Southern Section 3-A championship in a major league stadium--will come true.

Tuesday, Tustin traveled 150 miles to Victor Valley College and back and beat host Hesperia, 14-5, in the 3-A semifinals.

In last season’s semifinals, Tustin lost, 7-2, to eventual champion Kennedy, ending the Tillers’ hopes of playing for the title in Dodger Stadium.

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“Last year, the stadium was just this big, giant dream in front of us,” Tustin Coach Vince Brown said. “The dream got so big we couldn’t think of the game that we had to play to get to the stadium.”

Tustin (26-3) will take on La Serna in the championship game Saturday at 1 p.m. at Anaheim Stadium. Hesperia finished 19-9.

“When we stepped off the field after losing last year, we started our mission to get right back to where we are now,” Brown said.

Tuesday, Tustin took care of business from the outset. The Tillers sent 12 batters to the plate and raced to an 8-0 lead in the first inning against Don Brooks, Hesperia’s starter.

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Tustin leadoff man Shawn Green punctuated the inning carnage when he hit a wind-aided liner over the left-field fence for an opposite-field grand slam. Green drove in five runs and scored three times.

Tustin right-hander Bill Courtney improved his record to 8-0, but he struggled at the start, walking the first three batters before striking out Hesperia cleanup man Aaron Cromer on a 3-2 count.

Brown said a stiff wind hampered Courtney’s control.

“Bill was one pitch away from coming out,” Brown said, “but the wind was a big problem. He was making pitches that started in the strike zone and wouldn’t end up there. It was difficult for him to adjust to that wind.”

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Junior shortstop Ben Munoz, who had three singles and drove in four runs, finished up for Courtney with 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief.

Munoz and second baseman Jim Reider helped Courtney with a pair of double plays.

The elements figure to be less of a factor when left-hander Dan Baker (14-1) takes the mound for Tustin in the title game. And Green, for one, will be ready for the dream to begin.

“I can’t wait,” Green said. “It’s going to be a great experience. It’s going to be kind of overwhelming at first, but it will probably be just like any other baseball game after the first pitch.”

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