The last thing that Bob Flint, Irvine High School baseball coach, expected after he persuaded Artesia's Tony Guggiana to play their Southern Section 2-A quarterfinal game at Cerritos College on Friday was to be beaten by a home run.
Flint once pitched for Cerritos College and was well aware that the field measures 350 feet down the lines and 410 feet to dead center. No high school kid was going deep in this ballpark.
But that's exactly what the Pioneers did in gaining a 6-3 come-from-behind victory to eliminate Irvine from the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Artesia beat Irvine, 8-7, in the second round of the 1984 playoffs.
First baseman Mike Lau hit a three-run homer that carried well over the 350-foot sign in left field in the first inning, and right fielder Ron Gossage hit a 380-foot homer in the sixth.
The Pioneers (20-7) will meet another South Coast League opponent in the semifinals after Mission Viejo upset top-seeded Diamond Bar, 3-2, to advance. Irvine finished the year at 21-9-1, the best mark in the school's 10-year history.
Guggiana said the home-run spree wasn't by design. In fact, the veteran coach has tried his best to discourage any power production by his team.
"We took the fences down at our home field to discourage the kids from trying to hit homers," he said. "We want the players to spray the ball.
"Bob suggested we play the game here, and when I walked into the park today, I looked at the fences and the last thing on my mind was a home run."
Lau put that theory to rest in the first inning.
Irvine had rocked Artesia starter Brian Smith for four consecutive hits to take a 3-0 lead before Guggiana replaced him with Gunnar Seedborg. Seedborg restored order, and Lau got the Pioneers back in the game in a hurry.
The Pioneers had two runners on base when Irvine starter Brian Snoody worked the count to 1-2 on Lau. Lau proceeded to drive the next pitch, a chest-high fastball, nearly 400 feet to tie the score, 3-3, and then Seedborg went to work.
The right-hander allowed only three hits and struck out six over the next six innings against an Irvine team that had scored 20 runs in two previous playoff games. What's more, Seedborg scored the go-ahead run for the Pioneers in the third inning after laying down a perfect bunt to start the inning.
"Gunnar has been playing with a brace on his right leg since he had a knee operation during the football season," Guggiana said. "He tore ligaments but has come back to become our best pitcher."
Seedborg silenced the Vaqueros' only serious threat in the sixth inning when he induced leadoff hitter Mike Moceri to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Gossett clinched the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to knock out Irvine ace Brian Snoody. Snoody (12-3) was starting his sixth straight game for Irvine.
"Brian, bless his heart, didn't have anything today," Flint said. "He battled, and two balls that went out of the park were the difference.
"We knew he didn't have it, but I'd do the same thing tomorrow if I had a chance to do it over again."
Flint said the key play was the double play that Artesia executed to end the sixth inning. Moceri appeared to be safe at first but Flint didn't argue.
"That's the way it goes," he said. "It hurt, but what are you going to do about it? What's tough is that it gets real hard to lose when you get this far.