Chatsworth Makes Pitch for Dodger Stadium

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are grandmothers who throw harder than Joe Guntz. So how come he's 24-0 as a high school pitcher?

"My dad always says, 'Whoever hits the most spots wins,' " Guntz said.

Showing that control is more important than velocity, Guntz pitched his second consecutive shutout of the City Championship playoffs Thursday, allowing four hits in Chatsworth High's 4-0 semifinal victory over Banning at Birmingham High.

Guntz (13-0), a junior left-hander, struck out five, walked two and allowed only one runner to reach second base. He induced eight ground-ball outs and three double plays to send Chatsworth (30-2) into Tuesday night's championship game at Dodger Stadium.

"Joe is awesome," shortstop Ryan Barba said. "He's unstoppable."

Guntz keeps batters off balance with a fastball clocked between 78 and 81 mph because his delivery allows him to throw from different angles while changing speeds.

"We were in rhythm today," pitching coach Matt LaCour said. "I called it and he hit the spots. His competitiveness is what separates him. He just refuses to go out there and lose."

Chatsworth needed Guntz at his best because Banning (22-12) received a strong pitching performance from Richard Navarrete, who held the Chancellors hitless for 4 1/3 innings.

Chatsworth scored an unearned run in second inning on a hit batter, error, wild pitch and groundout. The Chancellors scored another run in the fifth on a balk by Navarrete.

They finally broke through in the sixth off reliever Rafael Sixtos, Banning's ace, with Jared Halpert singling in a run and Danny Dominguez adding a run-scoring fly ball.

Meanwhile, Guntz never was challenged thanks to flawless defense. Barba was outstanding at shortstop, contributing four assists. Equally impressive was second baseman Gregg Wallis, who had three assists.

Guntz wore his usual poker face, concealing his thoughts.

"You can't tell anything from his face," Barba said. "He shows no emotion."

The same can't be said of his father, Joe Sr., who was watching from the stands.

"I can breathe now," the elder Guntz said after the final outs were recorded on a double play. "He gets me on pins and needles."

Chatsworth players were so excited they had to be reminded the City final isn't until Tuesday.

"The adrenaline is flowing," Barba said. "I could go right now."

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CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHUP

Chatsworth vs. Roosevelt

Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

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