You had to search long and hard to find some happy faces after Loara High School's 2-1 Empire League victory over Cypress Friday.
There were only a few in the Loara dugout. Pitcher Joe Pactwa, who spent several weeks on the junior varsity this season, was pleased with his three-hitter. And third baseman Jeff Patterson felt pretty good about his two-run home run in the first inning.
But most of the happiest faces were clustered along the left-field line of the Centurions' field, underneath caps bearing the Los Alamitos insignia.
Loara may have been the winning team Friday, but Los Alamitos was the big winner. Loara's victory knocked Cypress out of contention for the Southern Section 4-A playoffs and assured Los Alamitos of the league's third playoff berth.
Los Alamitos was supposed to have played Katella Friday. But Katella was forced to forfeit its final game for breaking Southern Section rules limiting the number of games a team can play in a season, so the Los Alamitos players attended the game at Cypress.
With the forfeit, Los Alamitos closed with a 6-7-1 league record.
Cypress entered Friday's game at 5-7-1, but a victory and a third-place tie with Los Alamitos would have given the Centurions the third playoff spot because of Cypress' 1-0-1 record against Los Alamitos.
The loss dropped Cypress into fifth place, and the players' spirits plunged even deeper. There were many tears in Cypress' dugout, and several players moped around for at least 15 minutes after the game, wondering how the playoff berth had eluded them.
"We've had some frustrating losses this year, but not this one," said Don Rayl, Cypress coach. "We played a great game. This one just happened to be the one that hurts the most."
Loara Coach Ray Moore was hurting, too. Had Katella defeated Los Alamitos today, Loara (6-8, 16-9) would have finished third and made the playoffs.
Moore plans to appeal the forfeit to the Empire League, but time may prevent any action that could benefit the Saxons. All games must be completed by today, and the Southern Section will announce its playoff pairings Monday.
"It's unfair for our players to be penalized by another school's forfeit," Moore said. "It should come down to what Los Alamitos and Katella do on the field. I've made some calls and plan to push this as far as we can."
Cypress could have prevented the controversy by beating Loara Friday, but the Centurions didn't have enough hitting. Pactwa retired the first 11 batters before John Gerringer doubled in the fourth, and Cypress didn't get its next hit until the seventh, Gerringer's bunt single.
Gerringer scored on a two-out RBI single by Troy O'Leary, but Ron Brown grounded into a fielder's choice to end the game.
Cypress left-hander Jason Livingston allowed only three hits and shut down the Saxons after Patterson's homer, which followed a walk to Alan Evans in the first.
Kennedy 4, Esperanza 3--The Irish (4-10, 9-17) scored two runs in the first and fifth and survived an Aztec rally in the seventh at Esperanza. Kennedy took a 2-0 lead in the first when Doug Saunders made a throwing error with the bases loaded on a ball hit by Robert Wilson.
Bret Hepler singled, Ernie Franco walked, John Christensen sacrificed the runners along and Todd Bristow singled in both.
Esperanza (13-1, 21-2), the league champion and top-ranked team in the Southern Section, rallied for two runs in the seventh and had runners on first and third with one out. But Pete Montena, a sophomore, struck out Kevin Webb for the second out, and Rick Lane was tagged out at third on a delayed steal attempt for the final out.