Buena's Fears Realized in Loss to Last-Place Ventura

TIMES STAFF WRITER

So perhaps Ventura High's 15 losses don't strike fear in Cougar opponents. And perhaps Ventura has looked downright awful at times during its plunge to the Channel League baseball cellar.

But Buena Coach Stan Hedegard did not relish facing cross-town rival Ventura on Friday. In fact, Hedegard had worried about Ventura since Sunday.

Sunday?

"Hey, man, I don't ever like to play Ventura," he said.

The reason for Hedegard's anxiety became apparent when left-hander Eric Rafter turned in a superlative performance and Chris Krabill hit a key two-run double to lead visiting Ventura to a 5-1, 10-inning win.

Buena (12-5, 8-4 in league play), fell two games behind first-place Rio Mesa--the team it will play Tuesday--with two league games left.

Rafter limited Buena to four hits, struck out 11 and retired the final 10 batters.

"That (win) makes their whole season (worthwhile) right there," Hedegard said. "Rafter just pitched a helluva game."

Rafter (2-4) has been hurt by defensive lapses, control problems and a lack of offensive support. But he overcame that Friday, even if it took 164 pitches over 3 1/2 hours.

"I've wanted to win this game all year because it's the last game I'll ever pitch against Buena," said Rafter, a senior. "And, hopefully, this loss hurts their playoff chances."

Ventura (9-15, 3-9) broke a 1-1 tie in the 10th when the first four Cougars reached base. Danny Lopez was hit by a pitch, Trevor Rumsey doubled, and Krabill (two for five) followed with a two-run double.

Chris Mace followed with a single that drove in Krabill and gave Ventura a 4-1 lead. Mace went to second on the relay, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out error.

Ventura took a 1-0 lead in the second when Eddie Centeno (two for three) doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a two-out error.

Buena tied the score in the sixth. Chris Denger singled, moved to second on a balk, advanced to third on a sacrifice and scored when Rafter uncorked a wild pitch on a squeeze play. Buena attempted another squeeze, which failed, and the Bulldogs also left the go-ahead run at third.

Buena left six runners in scoring position and nine total.

"We had too many opportunities that we didn't capitalize on," Hedegard said. "We just didn't produce when we had to."

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