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Vigilantes Start Strong the Second Time Around

TIMES STAFF WRITER

You can understand why the Vigilantes probably wish the second half of the Western Baseball League season had started a little sooner.

After lurching about in May and June, Mission Viejo has found its stride in July, having won eight of its last 10 games in the season’s first half.

And even the three-day all-star break didn’t slow things down because the Vigilantes opened the second half with a 4-1 victory over the Chico Heat before an announced audience of 1,263 at Saddleback College.

Wednesday’s victory over the South Division’s first-half champions was the fifth victory in a row for Mission Viejo (25-21 overall). It got the Vigilantes off to a good start in their battle to make the playoffs. And, the Vigilantes hope, it sent a message to Chico that Mission Viejo would not be the same passive team the Heat beat in five of the first seven meetings.

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“I wasn’t here the first time we played them,” said Vigilante outfielder Michael Moore, who drove in two runs with two doubles. “But when a team beats you five out of seven, you can’t help but think they’ve got something on you. We need to show them we can compete with them. Because when we play like we can, we can compete with any team.”

Moore has been one of the late additions that has shored up the Vigilantes. So is reliever Bret Grebe, who worked out of a ninth-inning jam by striking out Justin Mashore with the bases loaded to save starter Mike Smith’s sixth victory, and sent the Heat (30-16) to its fifth consecutive loss.

“We have to play [the second half] one game at a time,” said Grebe, who got his fourth save. “But this is a big four-game series with Chico, which has been the best team in the league. So it was important to win the first game.”

One of Manager Buck Rodgers’ concerns is hanging on to this group of players. Infielder Brian Grebeck left for Taiwan just before the all-star break, left-handed pitcher Wally Ritchie left during the break (and was replaced by right-hander John Homan), and several others are being tracked by major league and overseas scouts.

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Heat starter Tom Bergan (3-2) pitched six credible innings against Mission Viejo. But two of them did him in.

Moore led off the second with a double into the left-field corner and moved to third as Robert Muro grounded out. Tracey Edmondson punched a single through a drawn-in infield for his 12th run batted in.

The Vigilantes increased their lead in the third. Three hits in a row by Brad Gennaro, Phil Kernan and Alan Burke made the score 2-0. Terrel Hansen’s error in left allowed Kernan and Burke to reach second and third, and Moore chased both of them home with his second double.

Chico got its only run in the fifth, when Ken Shamburg, who reached on a two-base error by Manny Gagliano, scored on a single by Graham Koonce.

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