Follow the Bouncing Ball, Part I: Castle Park shortstop Bobby Cardenas stuck his bat out and popped a short fly into center field during the second inning of Thursday's San Diego Section 3-A baseball playoff game between Vista and Castle Park. The ball bounced off the outstretched glove of Vista's diving center fielder, Scott Collins, and went for a two-run double.
Follow the Bouncing Ball, Part II: Castle Park third inning, two outs, runner on first. Benji Gil drove a ball into right field in front of Vista's Aaron Rounsifer, who got ready to field it on one hop. Thing is, in one weird second, the ball took an artificial turf hop on Castle Park's natural grass field, bounding over the head of a harried Rounsifer. By the time he tracked it down, Gil was standing on third and another run had scored.
Odd bounces weren't the only reason Castle Park defeated Vista, 5-1, but they sure got the Trojans (26-5-1) off to a good start in advancing toward a 3-A semifinal game with Helix Saturday at the University of San Diego. Mt. Carmel will play Mira Mesa in the other game.
"We ran into a real buzzsaw today," said Vista Coach Butch Smith, whose team finished 17-8. "They played a good game. They got a few ones to fall, and we didn't."
The early runs were all the Trojans needed because Gil was nearly flawless on the mound. He allowed just four hits and struck out eight, working his fastball and slider in and out of the eyesight of several confused Vista batters. Four of their eight strikeouts came on called third strikes.
"Today my fastball was working," Gil said. "I had the same speed throughout the seven innings."
Said Castle Park Coach Bob Korzep: "He's just a fantastic athlete. He's been doing it all year for us."
Gil improved to 9-0 and lowered his earned run average to a nifty 1.86. Vista touched him for a run in the fourth on Collins' sacrifice fly, but the Panthers left men on first and second in that inning and on second and third in the fifth.
"I lost a little bit in those innings," Gil said. "I wasn't hitting the corners of the plate."
The only other time it looked as if things might be breaking Vista's way was in the Castle Park fifth, when . . .
\o7 Follow the Bouncing Ball, Part III:\f7 Juan Beltran grounded into what looked like a sure double play, but the ball ricocheted off Vista shortstop John Land's shoulder. Problem? What problem? The ball landed in Brian Fleming's glove at second base, and he turned and threw to Reggie DeLeon to complete the double play.
That brief flash of momentum was quickly stopped by Gil when he set the last six Vista batters down in order.
In other 3-A quarterfinal playoff games:
Helix 7, Torrey Pines 2--Rob Ippolito powered and pitched defending 3-A champion Helix into the semifinals against Castle Park. Ippolito (10-2) threw four innings of no-hit ball, striking out six, before being relieved in the fifth. He was also two for three with a home run and three RBIs. No. 3 Helix improved to 23-5. Torrey Pines, which walked 11 batters, finished 14-12-1.
Mt. Carmel 12, Patrick Henry 2--Leadoff batter John Tejcek went three for three and scored three runs, Mark Van Aelstyn hit a home run, and Marcus Lee hit two more for No. 1 Mt. Carmel (24-2).
"We hit the ball really well today," Mt. Carmel coach Sam Blaylock said. "We've been playing good baseball, and we were able to get a lot of people in today."
Mira Mesa 1, El Capitan 0--Marc Nielsen singled to lead off the fifth, went to second on a hit and run and scored the game's only run on Walt Stetter's two-out single. Travis Arnold (10-2) picked up the victory but was removed in the fifth after experiencing stiffness in his back.