By Carlos Alvarez
Down two runs twice, the baseball team rallied to avoid a playoff upset loss at home in a single elimination game defeating College of the Canyons, 6-5.
They overcame their defensive struggles and came up with clutch hitting with runners in scoring position.
With the home crowd screaming on No. 15-seeded East Los Angeles College baseball team, Husky starting pitcher Shawn Kennedy, who pitched in relief kept his composure to put an end to No.18-seeded College of the Canyons seventh-inning scoring opportunity.
With ELAC trailing, 4-2, Kennedy retired three consecutive batters after ELAC relief pitcher Tony Monroy was removed with runners on the corners and no outs.
Kennedy mixed in his fastball and curveball to keep Canyon batters off-balance to escape the jam and give ELAC a fighting chance in yesterday’s Southern Regional playoff single elimination game at Husky Park.
ELAC will face No. 2-seeded Oxnard College in round one of the playoffs. Oxnard (27-9) won the Western State North-Division Conference title.
“Oxnard is a good team, but we also have a good team. It’s going to be a good game,” ELAC starting pitcher Roman Davalos said.
Kennedy was an ace in relief pitching three dominant innings, allowing one run off five hits while striking out five Canyons Cougars. “I tried to stay relax and I came in there and made my pitches. I knew I had to attack the strike zone, my defense (and ELAC’s) backed me up,” Kennedy said.
Davalos battled all game limiting the damage after giving up two early runs. Davalos pitched six battle-tested innings, allowing three runs (two earned) while giving up nine hits. “I wasn’t that strong at the start, but my defense backed me up. I knew if i kept the game close our (ELAC’s) offense would score some runs,” Davalos said.
Canyons starting pitcher Joseph Cloney pitched seven efficient innings, but was unable to maintain two, two-run leads for the Cougars. Cloney used both sides of the plate in his seven innings of work, allowing four runs of off five hits while striking out five Husky batters.
After overcoming an early 2-0 deficit the ELAC offense went to work in the seventh inning. “Kennedy came in and stopped the bleeding for us and then the guys began to have some tough at-bats. We battled all game and that’s all you can ask for,” ELAC Head Coach James Hines said.
ELAC tied the score four-all in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two-out rally. The rally began with a single by left fielder Eduardo Pedroza, who scored a run of off a Daniel Moriel single. With the score tied, the ELAC defense was at its worst allowing the go ahead run to score in the eighth inning.
“Our defense made some plays, but we had some mental lapses that could have cost us the victory,” Hines said. After a leadoff double by Canyons second baseman JD Krauskop, Kennedy settled down. A throwing error by ELAC third baseman Michael Aguilar allowed Krauskop to score and give the Cougars a 5-4 lead.
“It was tough for me. I felt like I had let the team down. I was hoping to get a chance to make up for it,” Aguilar said.
The Cougar offense collected a total of 13 hits with left fielder Chris Devery and first baseman Roberto Ramos leading the way for Canyons. Devery collected three hits with a double in five plate appearances.
Ramos who had seven home runs coming into the game had two quiet hits in five plate appearances. “He hit a home run to beat us in our first game of the season, but our pitcher had a game plan. Ramos made adjustments and we did the same,” Hines said.
Aguilar did get a chance to redeem himself in the bottom of the eighth inning with ELAC putting pressure on the Canyons defense. With a one-run lead, Chris Cota Canyons head coach brought in starting pitcher Ryan Cruz into relief to try to maintain the Cougar lead.
“It was an easy decision to make. Cloney was great all game, but Cruz was ready to go and he has been great all season,” Cota said.
ELAC jumped all over Cruz in the eighth inning loading the bases with the help of some shaky Cougar defense. Husky center fielder Kevin Amezquita scored the tying run off an Aguilar single. “I was just fortunate enough to come through. I got a good pitch to hit and I found a hole,” Aguilar said.
With one out in the eight ELAC first baseman Jonathan Larson scored the go ahead run on a run scoring single by Pedroza. “Our guys stayed with it. They outfought them and we came out with a big W,” Hines said.
A late inning rally by Canyons was quickly erased when Ramos was called out for the third out after trying to tag from third base, sealing the victory for ELAC.
“Our guys saw him take off early. They appealed to the umpire who saw the play and called him out. I saw him take off early, I couldn’t complain when the right call was made. We lost a tough game,” Cota said.