Nine months after his team lost to Kennedy High in the City Championship game, pitcher Greg Acheatel of El Camino Real was starting to have scary flashbacks Wednesday.
El Camino Real held the lead, just like in the final at Dodger Stadium. And Kennedy was rallying, just like at Dodger Stadium.
"A couple guys came up to me, 'This is not going to be like last year,' " Acheatel said. "I recalled how much it hurt to lose at Dodger Stadium and wasn't about to let it happen again."
Acheatel struck out the side in the seventh inning to save El Camino Real's 4-3 victory over the top-ranked Golden Cougars in a nonleague game at El Camino Real.
Kennedy (5-1) could not overcome three errors in the first inning that led to three unearned runs. Acheatel's home run in the fourth proved to be the game winner.
Facing tough games today against Chatsworth and Saturday against West Torrance, Coach Manny Alvarado of Kennedy chose to use his No. 5 pitcher, Bobby Phillips, who allowed five hits in 5 2/3 innings and would have won if not for the fielding blunders.
The Golden Cougars badly missed shortstop Chad Shaw, who was sidelined because of a groin pull.
But give credit to El Camino Real (4-2), a team that lost more players to graduation than Kennedy.
The Conquistadores received two doubles from catcher Jesse Michel, strong defense at second base from Dusty Destler and unveiled a potential pitching star, junior Chris Scott, who no-hit the Golden Cougars for the first three innings, retiring nine of 10.
Scott pitched only one inning last season on the junior varsity in the opening game, then was sidelined because of shoulder problems.
He entered this season as one of El Camino Real's "hidden" prospects.
"He's officially unhidden," Coach Bob Ganssle said. "He's now exposed to the world as a legitimate pitcher."
Said Acheatel: "Chris came out here and showed something [Wednesday]."
With Scott, Acheatel and junior Will Savage, El Camino Real might have the pitching depth to match up with West Valley League title favorite Chatsworth.
The game demonstrated that Acheatel, a junior right-hander, has improved since last season, when he shut out Kennedy for five innings in the City final before tiring in a 3-2 loss.
He was hit hard in the sixth inning Wednesday, giving up three runs, including run-scoring singles to Phil Avlas and Eric Moore.
But Acheatel never gave Kennedy a chance to rally in the seventh.
"Nothing will ever make up for last year's City Championship game, but we're attempting to play well and establish consistency," Ganssle said.
"I thought Greg did a lot better job relaxing, refocusing and adjusting, and that was the additional year of maturity."