Studio City Coach Chuck Hatfield violated a cardinal rule of baseball Thursday and lived to tell about it. Lived to celebrate it, in fact.
With two out in the bottom of the ninth inning and Studio City holding a 9-8 lead over Woodland Hills (West) in a American Legion District 20 playoff game, Hatfield intentionally walked the potential winning run to bring the district's leading hitter to the plate with the tying run on third base.
Five pitches later, Hatfield looked like a genius as Bryce Welch, who was batting .565, popped out to first baseman Tom Ball to end the game at The Master's College.
"You just don't do that," Hatfield said. "It was the first time I've ever done it, but I just had a hunch."
Hatfield's hunch was one of the few things that went right for Studio City late in the game, as Woodland Hills scored six times in the seventh to tie the score, 7-7, and took a one-run lead on Denny Vigo's two-out home run in the eighth.
The ninth inning belonged to Studio City, however, as the team scored two runs to go back in front before silencing Woodland Hills' rally to advance to the winner's bracket final against Van Nuys-Notre Dame today at 3 p.m. at Birmingham High.
Eric Garcia and Brad McGahan hit consecutive singles to load the bases after Chris Romo started Studio City's ninth-inning rally with a walk. Don Kelly drove in Romo and moved Garcia to third with a sacrifice fly to center field. Garcia scored on a wild pitch to give Studio City the winning margin.
But it wasn't over yet.
Steve Smith led off Woodland Hills' ninth with a double and advanced to third on Gene Demyon's ground out to first base. Studio City brought its infield up and Smith held at third when Ryan McGuire bounced to shortstop Romo for the second out.
Hatfield ordered Mike Kerber--the district's second-leading hitter at .524--intentionally walked and Ortiz (5-2) responded by throwing the baseball into the ground in anger.
"I didn't want the winning run on," Ortiz said.
Welch, who was hitless in his first five trips to the plate, worked the count to 2 and 2 before popping to Ball.