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Feehan’s 11th-inning walk-off catapults La Cañada baseball to CIF semifinals

LA CAÑADA — Ocean View High reached the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division III baseball playoffs by upsetting the No. 3 seed.

La Cañada made it there by winning its second-round game in nine innings.

The teams met in a quarterfinal Friday, as La Cañada was able to wait out Ocean View starting pitcher Gavin Kennedy, then get the big hit for a walk-off victory in the 11th inning for a 2-1 home victory.

The win put the Spartans into the semifinals, where they will be on the road at Oak Hills on Tuesday.

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“We just came out of the second round [against Warren] and battled our tails off for nine innings on the road, and honestly I didn’t think anything could match the intensity or the drama. But today overshadowed the second round,” La Cañada coach Matt Whisenant said.

“The kids hung in there and our guys that were on the mound did an incredible job. We got the little things done when we needed to; we played defense [and] we threw strikes. It was just a great team effort.”

In the bottom of the 11th with one out and pinch runner Liam Hartman on second base, Spartans Zach Feehan stepped to the plate against Seahawks reliever Shane Hoodman. After working the count to 1-2, the next pitch went wild, allowing Hartman to advance to second. Feehan then crushed the next pitch deep into the far corner of left field, where it landed for a double to dive in the winning run to end the marathon.

“I got down in the hole facing a new pitcher,” Feehan said. “I was in a hole with two strikes on me and I was just trying to move the guy over, but he left a pitch over the plate and I took advantage of it.”

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The win went to Spartans reliever Tai Walton, who came in to pitch a scoreless top of the 11th.

The loss by Ocean View (23-11) wasted a virtuoso performance by Kennedy. The senior pitched the first 10 innings, giving up a meager two singles, with one being of the infield variety.

“Their guy on the mound [Kennedy] was absolutely lights out,” Whisenant said. “Honestly, I think he executed every pitch except maybe a couple. He was phenomenal ... I would say he is the best we’ve faced all year.”

Kennedy, who has committed to Cal State Fullerton, struck out eight.

“Our senior guy going to Fullerton came out and threw an unbelievable game,” Ocean View coach Tanner VanMaanen said. “He was great. He did what he was supposed to do. In the long run we were bad. Offensively we made so many blunders it was bad.”

After Kennedy finally gave way after his 10 innings on the mound, La Cañada (21-7) jumped on the chance to face someone else than the Seahawk ace. Spartans Jason McCubbin Jr. led off the bottom of the 11th with a single slapped into left field for just the hosts’ third hit of the contest.

For the game, La Cañada, the Rip Hondo League champion, managed just four hits..

“We don’t show much on the scoreboard. We didn’t do a whole lot. We just hung in there,” Whisenant said.

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Ocean View, the Golden West League champion, had 11 hits.

“It shows the team that outhits the other team doesn’t always win,” VanMaanen said.

Ryan Graves was the starting pitcher for the Spartans. The senior had a solid outing with seven innings pitched. He struck out seven, one in each of the first seven innings and scattered seven hits before giving way after giving up a walk to Sean Muirhead to lead off the eighth.

“I was throwing to location really well. I had good command of my slider and threw some solid change-ups,” Graves said.

Connor Buchanan came on in relief and yielded a single to Kennedy. With runners at first and second and Sheldon Knowles at bat, a pitch bounced away from the Spartans catcher, but stopped only a few feet away. Muirhead tried to advance to third and was thrown out. Knowles then hit a single into right field that would most likely have scored Muirhead from second. Hartman got the next two outs to get out of the jam.

La Cañada scored the first run in the third using small ball. Lauenstein led off with a single off Kennedy and advanced to second on a Seahawks throwing error. Feehan then advanced the runner to third with a textbook sacrifice bunt. Jakob Torres followed with a ground out that scored Mike Lauenstein.

Ocean View tied the score at 1 in the sixth. Kennedy led off with a double off of Graves to the deep right field corner. He then advanced to third on a ground-out. Two batters later, Michael Fernandez drove him in with a single.

“It was a blast to end our home season like that,” Whisenant said. “It was awesome.”

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