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Simi Valley Ignited by Houchen's Slam : High school baseball: Catcher connects on first at-bat of season as Pioneers reach High Sierra Classic final.


RENO — Simi Valley's Jason Houchen made his first at-bat this season a memorable one.

Houchen, sidelined after suffering a knee injury the first day of practice, hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the fifth inning that erased a 3-0 deficit and sparked the Pioneers to a 10-3 victory over Pleasant Hill of College Park (Calif.) on Wednesday in a semifinal game of the High Sierra Classic.

"Before we left for Reno, I told some friends that I would hit a homer in my first at-bat," said Houchen, who was expected to be the Pioneers' starting catcher before the injury.

Simi Valley (16-1), ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Super 25 High School baseball poll, advanced to today's final where it will meet Antioch (Calif.). The Pioneers, breaking out of a minor batting slump, had 12 hits and stole four bases, three by Ryan Briggs.

Kevin Nykoluk, who filled in for Houchen while the catcher was recovering, was three for three with three runs batted in.

He followed Houchen's slam with a two-run homer in Simi Valley's six-run fifth. The game was shorted to six innings because of the tournament's 2-hour 10-minute time limit.

As they did against Pittsburg Tuesday, the Pioneers came out flat against College Park (10-4). Starter Bill Treadway (5-0) struggled early, giving up a two-run homer to Spiro Sarlis in the second. Treadway eventually settled down, finishing with 11 strikeouts.

In other tournament action, Camarillo advanced to today's consolation championship game with a 12-8 win over Redwood of Larkspur. Camarillo (5-11) will meet Pittsburg (8-4-1), the fifth-ranked team in the East Bay.

Against Redwood (9-5), outfielder Matt Buttell was two for four with four RBIs and Colby Keener was two for four with an RBI to lead Camarillo. George Lopez also collected two hits for the Scorpions.

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