SACRAMENTO — Rancho Santiago pitcher Ryan Filbeck and Coach Don Sneddon could not agree on the reason Filbeck struggled early in the State tournament quarterfinal round Saturday.
But the difference of opinion didn't matter much, because the Dons rallied to beat Laney College of Oakland, 6-3, at Union Stadium on the campus of Sacramento City College.
Rancho Santiago, the top-ranked baseball team in Southern California, will play Sacramento, the top-ranked team in Northern California, at 11 a.m. today. The winner advances to Monday's title game and the loser will play the winner of the Laney-Orange Coast game.
Filbeck, a sophomore right-hander, allowed single runs in the first and second innings, but finished strong partly because of the four runs Rancho Santiago scored in the seventh to give the Dons a 6-3 lead.
Filbeck said his slow start, which included walking the first batter of the game on four pitches, came as he adjusted to the steep pitching mound on the field. The one in the bullpen is mostly a loose pile of dirt, about two feet longer than regulation.
Filbeck also threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score in the second.
Sneddon called the mishaps a simple case of being nervous.
"He started off slowly," Sneddon said of Filbeck. "We were tense and uptight, you could see that in all our people."
Whatever the cause, Filbeck (7-1) recovered in fine fashion. He had seven strikeouts and walked one in pitching an eight-hitter. He is 3-0 with two complete games in the post-season.
Filbeck allowed an RBI single in the seventh, but then retired the final eight to close out the victory.
"My fastball and slider were really nothing," Filbeck said. "I just had to go with the curveball and work the corners. . . . I really wasn't that nervous. I was worse in the regional last week against Cypress."
The game turned in Rancho Santiago's favor in the seventh on clutch two-out hits by Matt Kastelic and Tony Truel.
Laney (37-11) went ahead, 3-2, on a two-out single by Howard Bess in the top of the seventh. Bess, the No. 9 hitter, was three for three.
Ryan Andersen opened the bottom of the inning with a double just inside the right-field line for the Dons. He went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Lugo.
David Gonzalez walked, but Jason Wakefield popped out in the infield for the second out.
Laney starter Fernando Mercado had a chance to escape but Kastelic tied the score, 3-3, with a line-drive single to right-center. Truel then pulled a three-run home run over the right-field fence to put Rancho Santiago ahead, 6-3. It was his third home run of the season.
Mercado (9-6) took the loss.
Kastelic had a run-scoring triple and Truel an RBI single in the fifth after Wakefield reached with two outs on a throwing error by Laney shortstop Gabe Williams.
Today's game against Sacramento, which defeated Orange Coast, 11-2, Saturday, marks the first time the teams have met since 1988. That year, Sacramento defeated Rancho Santiago twice on the final day to win the State title.
Brandon Hoalton (11-0) will start for Rancho Santiago today.
"It should be fun," Sneddon said of the upcoming game against Sacramento. "They are typical of their good teams. They put the ball in play, run the bases well and their pitchers throw strikes."