Woodland Hills East Wins 7th in Row Under Pressure

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Woodland Hills East American Legion baseball team is a little like a tube of toothpaste.

For best results, add pressure.

Woodland Hills East, in essence, played its seventh consecutive American Legion playoff game on Wednesday at Burroughs High.

An 8-5 victory against Newhall-Saugus (16-7) in the double-elimination District 20 playoffs gave Woodland Hills East seven victories in a row.

After winning nine of its first 10 games, Woodland Hills East (16-7) lost its next six, meaning it needed to win the rest just to get into the playoffs. It did.

"We called (the end of the regular season) the playoff invitational," Woodland Hills East co-Coach Mark Clouser said. "These guys need to have their backs against the wall."

Gregg Zutler had his back to the wall on Wednesday, escaping just in time to hit a ball over it.

Zutler, Woodland Hills East's starter, faced a bases-loaded, one-out situation with the score tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the fourth. He struck out Mike Swinford and retired leadoff hitter Jason Jennings on a ground ball.

In the top of the fifth, Zutler came to bat against Lucas Solomon (3-2) with the bases loaded and none out. He lifted a grand slam over the fence in right-center, then danced around the bases.

"That really pumped us up," Woodland Hills East third baseman Jon Schaeffer said of Zutler's home run.

Zutler was so pumped up, when he took the mound in the bottom of the inning with an 8-1 lead, he couldn't throw strikes. He walked three and allowed a hit before he was removed one out shy of qualifying for the victory.

Mike Ferguson (1-0), Woodland Hills East's least-effective pitcher of the day, got out of the inning and earned the victory with the help of three innings from Stacy Kleiner.

Woodland Hills East's all-purpose player, Kleiner retired eight in a row, then allowed a walk and an infield single before recording the final out in his fourth save.

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