There was no offensive explosion typical of Chatsworth High. Rather, the Chancellors were coldly efficient in their attack in advancing to the City Section 4-A Division baseball final for the first time since 1994.
Chatsworth scored in each of the first four innings, wearing down Kennedy starter Jack Cassel, and went on to a 5-2 victory before a standing-room-only crowd at Pierce College on Thursday.
The top-seeded Chancellors (29-3) will play sixth-seeded El Camino Real (18-9) next Thursday at Dodger Stadium for the fourth time this season.
Chatsworth swept three games from El Camino Real this season. It will be the fourth time the West Valley League rivals have played for the City title in the 1990s.
"It's going to be a battle to the end," Chatsworth pitcher Mike Kunes said.
Chatsworth, which averages 10.2 runs a game, took a methodical approach with good reason. The Chancellors were favored to reach the final the last two seasons but faltered each time in the semifinal round.
They had extra incentive against Cassel (8-4), who handed Chatsworth its first loss in April.
"We wanted to prove something to him," sophomore shortstop Matt Fisher said. "He came into our house and beat us. He's a good friend, but we had to come back and show what we could do."
Kunes singled home Matt Cassel, Jack's brother, in the first inning and Fisher scored on a single by Eric Paschal in the second for a 2-0 lead.
"They were playing Kennedy-style baseball," Jack Cassel said. "They get base hit after base hit and by the time you wake up, it's too late."
However, the fourth-seeded Golden Cougars (24-9) appeared to wake up on time in the third. Kennedy strung together four hits off Kunes, including RBI singles by Jack Cassel and Tim Arroyo, tying the score, 2-2.
After Jack Cassel retired the first two batters in the bottom of the inning, Tim Morefield singled and Fisher hit a drive center fielder Wes Crown dived for and missed. The ball rolled to the fence for a triple and Chatsworth had the lead for good, 3-2.
"It's a big park," Fisher said.
Chad Redfern led off the fourth with a home run and Chatsworth extended the lead to 5-2 with a double by Bryan Gant and single by Danny Eisenberg.
When Jack Cassel walked Morefield to open the fifth, he was replaced by Tim Arroyo, who retired the last six batters.
Kennedy, starting nine seniors, tried to battle back against Kunes (11-2), but could manage only two hits in the last four innings.
The final out was symbolic of the day for Kennedy. Marcus Alvarado hit a sharp ground ball to second base, then dived in vain trying to beat the throw to first base.
As the Chancellors became a human dog-pile on the first base line, Alvarado was helped up by his teammates, who tried to comprehend the end of their season.
"We came a long way, where people didn't expect us to be," Cassel said. "I'm proud of my guys and I love them. I'm sorry we couldn't go one more game."