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CITY SECTION 4-A DIVISION BASEBALL SEMIFINALS : Wolf Snuffs Rally With Double Play

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Playoff semifinal. Bases loaded, nobody out. Who you gonna call?

Who do you think?

To no one’s surprise, El Camino Real High pitcher Randy Wolf, the prince of the postseason, trotted in from right field toward a fifth-inning brush fire to protect a two-run lead Friday at Birmingham High.

A trip to the City Section 4-A final for defending champion El Camino Real hung in the balance, and the scales were tipping toward its opponent.

The hard-hitting Golden Cougars of Kennedy had scored 30 runs in their previous two games, and Wolf had pitched seven innings only two days earlier.

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A little unsettling?

“I was shaking like a leaf,” Wolf said.

He walked the first batter to force in a run, and the Conquistadores’ lead was cut to one.

But then, Wolf got by with a little help from some of his friends in the Conquistadores’ 6-2 victory.

He struck out the next batter, then induced George Kassis to hit a slow grounder to second base.

Joey Maiden fielded it cleanly and made a long throw to shortstop Matt Tays, who avoided the runner and threw out Kassis at first by the slimmest of margins to complete the double play.

Conquistadore players streamed joyously out of the dugout, sensing that the crisis was over.

“We should have exploded that inning,” Kennedy’s Kevin Serr said.

Opportunity did not even walk up the porch steps after that.

Wolf will start Monday against Chatsworth at Dodger Stadium in a rematch of last season’s championship. Fittingly, as it turns out, the senior left-hander was drafted Friday morning by the Dodgers in the 25th round of the major league baseball amateur draft.

But if the victory hinted at destiny, fate intervened in the guise of the sterling 4-6-3 double play.

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“That was the game right there,” Wolf said of the play. “I was thinking, ‘Okay, one out,’ then Matt made the throw to first. I was like, ‘Oh, man!’ Not only did it get us out of that important inning, it fired up the team.”

Said first baseman Craig Carlton: “What a play! To tell you truth, I thought it was hit too slowly but Joey made a great throw and Matt’s toss was right there. It’s the greatest play we’ve made all season.”

El Camino Real (22-7) scored two runs in the bottom of the inning on a single by Billy Burnette to give Wolf a three-run cushion, which was more than enough.

He scattered three hits in the final two innings to earn the save, to go along with victories the Conquistadores’ first two playoff games. He is 11-3 with a 1.09 earned-run average in 103 innings.

But this was not a game won solely because of Wolf.

Senior right-hander Tony Kyber (8-2) pitched the first four innings and held Kennedy (17-11) at bay. Kyber got out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the second inning and stranded six runners in the initial three innings.

“We were one hit or one break away each of the first three innings,” Coach Manny Alvarado said.

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El Camino Real made the most of its opportunities.

Carlton lined a two-out, two-run double in the third inning to give the Conquistadores a 3-1 lead, and Burnette’s hit in the fifth put the game out of reach.

Burnette later scored on a double by Tays.

David Soto (3-3) took the loss for Kennedy, which had won 10 of its previous 11 games.

But in the end, the Golden Cougars became the latest in a long line of opponents to be shut down by El Camino Real’s familiar No. 7.

“He does that, doesn’t he?” Alvarado said.

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