For Crespi High, top-seeded in the Southern Section Division I baseball playoffs, winning its first-round game was more a feeling of relief than cause for celebration.
"You simply can't lose the first one," Coach Scott Muckey said after his team beat Hawthorne, 7-2, on Friday at Valley College. "Now we can breathe a little easier."
Crespi (25-2), which has won 15 consecutive games, received the No. 1 seeding in the playoffs after Simi Valley lost its final game of the regular-season.
As a result, the Celts drew Hawthorne (10-16), the third-place finisher in the Bay League and the proverbial "team with nothing to lose and everything to gain."
The Cougars threw a slight scare into Crespi by scoring in the first inning against Jeff Suppan, the Celts' ace right-hander.
Hawthorne leadoff batter Robert Aguirre reached first on a grounder that hit just in front of home plate and bounced too high for third baseman Gus Jordt to make a play. Aguirre scored on a two-out double.
"I thought, 'Oh, no, it's going to be one of \o7 those\f7 games," Muckey said.
But Suppan (10-1) has made a habit this year of giving up first-inning runs--if he is going to give up any at all. He usually settles down as the game goes on, and Friday was no exception.
He allowed only one more run in the seventh and finished with an eight-hitter. He struck out 10 and walked one.
"Whenever he goes out there, you know the other team isn't going to get more than two runs," first baseman Brad Wright said. "He never lets down."
The Celt offense ended Hawthorne's upset hopes with five runs in the first three innings, one on Casey Snow's fifth home run of the year in the first inning and two more on a double by Suppan in the third.
Crespi's third, fourth and fifth batters in the order--Snow, Suppan and Wright--were five for nine with four runs and four runs batted in.
The Celts chased Hawthorne starter Ron Pimental (3-6) after four innings. Crespi added two insurance runs against Stan Wood in the fifth. The unearned runs scored because Jose Rives dropped a routine fly ball with two out, one of five Cougar errors.
The Celts will meet Bell Gardens in the second round Tuesday. Bell Gardens advanced with a 1-0 upset of Newbury Park on Friday.
Muckey was planning to come back with Suppan on Tuesday, but after hearing that Newbury Park was upset, he said he might start No. 2 starter Keith Evans rather bring back Suppan against Bell Gardens (13-13).
If Muckey goes with Evans (7-0), Suppan would then be available to start all of Crespi's remaining playoff games with no less than three days of rest between any of them.
That might be presumptuous, though, for a team that has never won a Southern Section title and was knocked out in the first round last year.
"When you're a team that relies on defense, you don't think about how far you'll go," Muckey said. "You just worry about shutting down the next team."