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Bell is headed to Dodger Stadium to play for City Section Open Division title

Bell players celebrate their 1-0 win over Granada Hills in the City Section Open Division semifinals at Pepperdine.
(Craig Weston)
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Bell High baseball coach Frank Medina was fiery and passionate while talking to his players moments after their improbable 1-0 win over Granada Hills on Tuesday at Pepperdine earned them a spot in Saturday’s City Section Open Division championship game at Dodger Stadium.

“Who has a college offer?” he asked his team, which started three freshmen and three sophomores.

No one raised their hand.

“It doesn’t matter!” he screamed.

The Eastern League champion Eagles survived nine walks to pull out the victory. The only run came in the first inning when Luis Melendez led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice, went to third on a ground out and scored on a David Gonzalez single, Bell’s only hit of the game.

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Granada Hills junior pitcher Alex Schmidt struck out 12 and retired the last 19 batters he faced, but the Highlanders stranded 12 runners against Bell pitchers Johnny Catano and Rigoberto Baltazar.

“The guys don’t know better,” Medina said of his team’s ability to handle pressure. “We pride ourselves on being gritty and not being afraid.”

Not since 1960, when South Gate won the City title, or going back to the 1950s when Garfield won two titles, has an Eastern League team made it this far in the upper division of the City Section baseball playoffs. Bell lost in the final in 1943 and 1953.

“We’’ve already made history,” Medina told his players.

To take out the No. 1-seeded Highlanders is quite an accomplishment and awaiting Bell on Saturday in the 1 p.m. final is defending champion Birmingham, a 3-0 winner over Carson in the other semifinal.

Medina was reminding his players that as young as some of them might be, “It’s no guarantee” to make it back to Dodger Stadium in the future.

“Take care of business,” he said. “It’s about now.”

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