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Mater Dei Holds Off Cougars

May 02, 1996|MIKE TERRY

Capistrano Valley began the season as the county's top-ranked team. Mater Dei seems destined to finish that way.

The Monarchs clinched at least a tie for the South Coast League championship by beating the Cougars, 9-5, at Capistrano Valley. They lead by three games with three to play.

Just as important, Mater Dei (19-2, 12-0) should enter the Division I playoffs as the league's top team. Wednesday was the Monarchs' second league victory against Capistrano Valley (18-4, 9-3) this season. The Cougars did defeat the Monarchs in a tournament game in March.

Even if the teams finish the regular season tied for the league title, Mater Dei has the first tie-breaker in head-to-head competition, with one game remaining between the schools on Friday.

Mater Dei Coach Bob Ickes said the Monarchs would not coast into the playoffs.

"We can't think beyond [the league]," Ickes said. "After Friday we still have two left with Mission Viejo, which also plays us tough. They beat us late last year, and hurt our playoff seeding. We can't afford a letdown."

Wednesday's game featured two unbeaten starters--Mike Hessman for Mater Dei and Pat Versluis for Capistrano Valley. Hessman (7-0) was able to escape his jams, and Versluis (6-1) did not.

Versluis had given up only seven earned runs in 38 2/3 innings. That total was matched on Wednesday thanks to two big swings; a grand slam by Mike Kolbach in the fourth that gave Mater Dei the lead for good, and another grand slam by Brett Kay in the sixth.

Pat Manning added a home run off reliever Matt Donoho in the seventh.

Capistrano Valley, which outhit Mater Dei, 12-10, got only one run off Hessman--an RBI single from Matt Pope in the third--during his five innings. Hessman, who walked three and struck out eight, gave up seven hits and stranded 10 runners.

The Cougars rallied for four runs in the seventh off Kolbach, three coming on Mike Clifton's home run, but that wasn't enough to get out of the eight-run hole Capistrano Valley had dug for itself.

"They are No. 1 in the county, and maybe in the nation," Cougar Coach Bob Zamora said. "If they have Kolbach and Hessman to throw at [Miami] Westminster Christian I'm not sure they lose.

"I told our kids I hope we see Mater Dei a fifth time in the playoffs. We're tired of finishing second to them in league, but we enjoy playing against them."

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