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UPPER DECK TOURNAMENT : Tustin Again Falters in Semifinal Round


Tustin's baseball team discovered yet another way to lose a semifinal-round game Wednesday night in the Upper Deck tournament.

Tustin allowed two runs in the first despite giving up only a bunt single and then allowed a run in the sixth on a wild pitch in a 3-1 loss to Cherry Hill (N.J.) at Amerige Park in Fullerton.

Semifinal losses have become routine for Tustin. In the past three years, Tustin has advanced to the semifinals of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs and lost two of three times. Last year, Tustin advanced to the semifinals of the Upper Deck tournament and lost to Esperanza.

"I don't have much taste for it (losing in the semifinals)," Tustin Coach Vince Brown said. "You get this close, you want to play in the big game."

It went downhill for Tustin at the start as Cherry Hill (8-0) capitalized on three mistakes by the Tillers' starting pitcher, Phil Cutti. Cutti opened by hitting Cherry Hill leadoff batter Tom Bianco and then failed to field Brad Napoli's bunt.

With runners on first and second, Cutti then threw wildly on an attempted pickoff to second and by the time Tustin center fielder Brett Hardy retrieved the ball, Bianco had scored and Napoli was on third. Bo Gray's sacrifice fly to center scored Napoli as Tustin fell behind, 2-0.

Tustin did not score on Cherry Hill starter John Oberg until the sixth when Nick Cantu singled home teammate Zach Elliott. Tustin managed only four hits off Oberg and reliever Chris Querns who combined to end the Tillers' 10-game winning streak.

Cherry Hill outfielders Kevin Brickner, Watt Clymer and Bianco played a big role in limiting Tustin offensively. The trio turned in three big plays in the early innings and were impressive in covering the outfield at Amerige.

Cherry Hill will meet top-seeded Miami Westminster Christian (27-1) in the championship game at 7 tonight at Amerige. Westminster Christian advanced with a 2-1 victory over Turlock, scoring both runs without a hit.

Shortstop Alex Rodriguez walked twice, stole two bases and scored both runs as Westminster Christian won its 25th consecutive game.

In other games:

El Dorado 3, Fountain Valley 2 (8 innings)--Brian Loyd's ground-rule double in the bottom of the eighth drove in Chris Remala from third with the winning run for the host Hawks (11-5) in a consolation bracket game.

Shawn Holcomb (4-1) allowed seven hits and struck out five in the complete game victory.

Ocean View 8, Esperanza 5--Micah Edwardson was four for four, with a first-inning grand slam and two doubles for the Seahawks (11-5) in a consolation bracket game at El Dorado High.

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