The Westlake-Royal American Legion team is confident, if nothing else.
A four-run deficit in the eighth inning? No problem.
Westlake-Royal overcame that Saturday night, defeating Camarillo, 11-10, in the Area 6 playoffs at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium.
“I was never worried,” Westlake-Royal Coach Mike McClure said.
The next test will be today, when Westlake-Royal (28-6-1) will need to beat Arcadia twice to win the double-elimination tournament. The first game starts at noon.
“I’m very confident we are going to play 18 innings tomorrow,” McClure said.
Brian Schuster put Westlake-Royal into the championship round by sliding around a tag with the go-ahead run with two out in the top of the ninth.
Schuster was running at third when Brent Egan hit a chopper in front of the plate. Schuster stopped midway down the line, but when he looked back to third, teammate Kevin Mellinger, running from second, was almost there.
“I just decided I had to go home and make some kind of acrobatic slide,” Schuster said.
Pitcher Richard Soliz threw to first baseman Fernando Barajas, whose throw home appeared to be in time, but Schuster slid around the tag.
The victory was especially pleasant for Westlake-Royal because it was against its District 16 rival.
“We play these guys four times a year,” Schuster said, “so when we see them in a game like this, it’s pretty intense.”
Camarillo (27-8) was eliminated.
Soliz (5-2) started for Camarillo, reversing a previous decision. Soliz, one of Camarillo’s top starters, did not want to pitch in the playoffs so he could save his arm for today’s Area Code Games tryouts. His teammate, Dan Martinez, also said he wouldn’t pitch.
But Jody Breeden, one of the coaches who helps select players for the Area Code Games, told Martinez and Soliz that he would watch them pitch Saturday in the playoffs and that would serve as their tryout.
Martinez started and lost, 11-3, to Arcadia earlier Saturday.
Soliz went the distance, throwing 160 pitches. He gave up 11 runs and 17 hits.
After the game, walking away with his elbow in a bucket of ice, Soliz said he didn’t want to talk to reporters.
Westlake-Royal fell behind in a disastrous first inning. Westlake-Royal made four errors in the inning, contributing to five runs, only one earned.
“That was our worst inning ever,” McClure said.
Westlake-Royal needed three pitchers to get out of the inning. Starter Matt Pitstick, who had thrown only five innings all season, lasted only one-third of an inning. Joe Primack faced two batters before yielding to Jay Kenny, who pitched 5 1/3 innings earlier in the day.
Westlake-Royal did not use right-hander Maki Kramer, one of the aces during the regular season. Although Kramer suffered a minor knife wound last week while apprehending a shoplifter at his job at Kmart, he had medical clearance to pitch Saturday.
“It was our choice to go without him,” McClure said. “We weren’t saving him. We were concerned about him being in shape. He hasn’t pitched in two weeks.”
McClure said Kramer will start today.
Westlake-Royal tied the game, 5-5, with three runs in the bottom of the second, but Camarillo pulled away with two runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth, taking a 10-6 lead.
Westlake-Royal scored three runs in the eighth and two in the ninth, to take the lead.
Scott Morris (2-1), who pitched three scoreless innings of relief, picked up the victory.
Arcadia 11, Camarillo 3--Martinez decided to pitch, but his defense let him down. He lasted 6 1/3 innings, giving up 11 runs--six earned--and 14 hits.
Martinez pitched well for most of the game, but his team came undone on one critical botched play in the sixth inning.
With Arcadia leading, 3-2, and Brett Hynes at second with one out, Jason Cly hit a routine fly ball to right field. Camarillo’s Jason Adamson dropped the ball, then overthrew the cutoff man, allowing Hynes to score. Camarillo third baseman Eric Flores, backing up the play, picked up the ball and threw it into right field, trying to get Cly at second base. Cly wound up circling the bases on the play.
Arcadia scored four runs in the inning, taking a 7-2 lead. Arcadia had five consecutive hits off a tiring Martinez in the seventh, scoring four more runs.
Barajas had two doubles in four at-bats for Camarillo. Rick Collier and Rodell Desamparo each added two singles.
Westlake-Royal 9, Valley North 8--Morris drove in Joel Mellinger with a two-out single in the 10th inning, eliminating District 20 champion Valley North (20-10).
Valley North’s Tony Montiel, who was the losing pitcher, was responsible for the game going to extra innings in the first place. He singled home Rod Daryabigi with the tying run with one out in the top of the ninth inning.
It was Montiel’s fifth hit of the game and his ninth in the past two games.
Mellinger, who was three for four, doubled with two out in the bottom of the 10th and scored on Morris’ single up the middle.
Pitstick had two hits and drove in four runs for Westlake-Royal. Catcher Ben Lemos hit a two-run home run. It was only Westlake-Royal’s third home run of the season.
Harry Kenoi started for Valley North and gave up eight runs in 5 2/3 innings. He had been injured and did not pitch at all this spring at Chatsworth High, and he pitched just two short stints this summer for Valley North.
Jay Kenny (7-0), who picked up the victory for Westlake-Royal, gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings of relief.