Steve Vernola, Gahr High School's junior right-hander, pitched a two-hit shutout against Valencia, one of Orange County's most powerful teams, in the second round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs Tuesday afternoon at Gahr.
The Gladiators' 4-0 victory advanced them to a quarterfinal game Friday at Sunny Hills.
Vernola, whose fastball is his most effective pitch, struck out nine batters, including Andy Ruscitto twice. Ruscitto's 12 home runs this season had set an Orange County record.
In another 3-A game, Downey defeated Warren, 5-4, as Vikings pitcher Shane Norris escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the seventh inning. John Hoetker hit a three-run home run for Downey.
In 4-A games, Poly took an early lead at Simi Valley on a two run-double by Scott Moore and won, 9-3, and St. John Bosco, behind the pitching of Gene Lemmers, beat visiting Millikan, 9-0. Cary Windes, a sophomore shortstop, homered for the Braves, who had 15 hits.