Van Nuys Stays Alive in Playoffs


It hailed Cesars in Burbank on Saturday night.

Cesar Martinez scored the winning run with two out in the bottom of the ninth to make Cesar Hernandez the winning pitcher as Van Nuys-Notre Dame defeated Encino-Crespi, 7-6, in an American Legion District 20 playoff game at Burroughs High.

Neither was a likely hero.

Martinez had spent the past three weeks on vacation in Baja California, working on his tan. He arrived home Friday night to learn that Van Nuys was still very much involved in the playoffs. There was only one problem: rust.

"I woke up early (Saturday) to go play catch and take some swings," Martinez said. "I didn't pick up a baseball for three weeks."

Hernandez, an outfielder who was fighting off a bad back, somehow held Encino scoreless over the final two innings as Van Nuys battled back. With the victory, Van Nuys staved off elimination and advanced into today's championship round.

Top-seeded Van Nuys (24-3) will play Valley North--an 11-6 winner over Verdugo Hills--today at 1 p.m. at Burroughs. The winner will face Encino at 4:30 for the District 20 title. Both teams in the final advance to the Area 6 tournament, which begins Thursday at UCLA.

If not for Martinez, though, it might not have happened.

"Welcome back, Cesar Martinez," Van Nuys Coach Jody Breeden said. "I told myself I wasn't going to use him. I swore I wouldn't."

Martinez was inserted for Joe Orlando in the seventh. He reached base on a fielder's choice and later scored. With the score tied, 6-6, in the ninth, he lined a one-out single to left off right-hander Gus Jordt. Left-hander Brad Farlow replaced Jordt and retired Hernandez on a groundout to second, but Martinez advanced to second on the play.

Francisco Dongo followed by lining a game-winning single into right field to keep Van Nuys alive.

Van Nuys wasted several opportunities on the base paths. Two runners were tossed out at third after committing baserunning blunders and another suffered the embarrassment of being forced at second base on what should have been a base hit to right.

The defeat snapped Encino's 17-game winning streak in district play but the team already has clinched a berth in the Area 6 tournament.

Encino (20-7) had a shot at the lead in the top of the ninth, but failed to push a run across against Hernandez. With a runner at second and two out, Hernandez intentionally walked Jeff Suppan to get to Kyle Carden.

Carden had delivered a key hit in a similar situation Friday night, but struck out on three pitches to end the threat.

In another playoff game:

Valley North 11, Verdugo Hills 6--In a game marred by several player ejections and a visit from the Burbank Police Department, David Stevenson and Bryan LaCour each homered to keep Valley North alive in an elimination game at Burroughs.

With Valley North holding a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Verdugo Hills reserve Dan Bir was ejected for directing obscene remarks toward a Valley North player. A large-scale argument followed and both benches cleared, resulting in the ejection of Valley North outfielder Alex Estrada and Verdugo Hills catcher David Fielder, both of whom were in the starting lineup.

The ugliness spread into the stands, where several spectators verbally blasted the umpires. Burbank police was called and two squad cars responded but no arrests or further ejections took place, though umpires threatened several times to clear the stands.

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