San Fernando Coach Steve Marden hasn't been in a friendly mood because his pitching has gone to the dogs the past few weeks. And in a critical Mid-Valley League game against Kennedy on Tuesday, the Tigers sent what appeared to be a four-legged left-hander to the mound.
Rudy Vargas came to the game sporting crutches, but pitched 5 innings of solid relief in San Fernando's 12-7 victory. Coupled with Birmingham's 8-5 loss to Granada Hills, San Fernando (10-7, 9-4) gained sole possession of first place with two games left in the regular season.
"Rudy Vargas is a kid with a great deal of heart," Marden said after Vargas, who bruised a shin Monday in practice, tossed aside the crutches to shut down Kennedy and earn the win.
"I didn't think I'd be able to use him today," said Marden, who needed pitching help after Bobby Aparicio allowed five runs in 1 innings. "Vargas is the kid I want on the mound in tight situations. He's the kid who looks me in the eye when I go out to the mound to take the ball from him and says, 'Don't, I'll get him.' "
Said Vargas, who allowed only two runs while striking out five batters: "My shin was hurting but I didn't let it bother me."
After he came in and got the last two outs in the top of the second with Kennedy leading, 5-3, Vargas had a message for his teammates.
"I told 'em if they got me the runs, I'd get them the outs," he said. "They came through for me."
And Vargas kept his end of the deal.
Kennedy (12-8-1, 7-6) could have forced a three-way tie for first with a win. However, Coach Dick Whitney's Golden Cougars resembled anything but a contending team. Eleven of San Fernando's runs off pitchers Colin Hines (4-4) and Brian Roth were unearned.
Kennedy committed five errors and had several mental errors, including outfielders throwing to the wrong bases and infielders simply forgetting to cover them.
"I've gotta be honest," Whitney said. "I am ashamed and embarrassed by our performance today. If you can't catch and throw in this game, when you fall down trying to catch balls and you can't run, you shouldn't be playing this game.
"I've gotta be ashamed of my coaching and ashamed to wear a Kennedy uniform."
First baseman Manny Orozco had two hits and four runs batted in for San Fernando, including his first home run--a three-run, inside-the-park shot to the gap in right-center in the first inning. Shortstop Albert Torres added three hits.
First baseman Gino Tagliaferri had three hits and three RBIs for Kennedy.
With two games left, San Fernando is one game ahead of Granada Hills and Birmingham--and must play them both.