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COMMUNITY COLLEGE BASEBALL / SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PLAYOFFS

Pitching Propels Saddleback

May 11, 1997|STEVE KRESAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Saddleback beat Southwestern, 11-1, in the first round of the Southern California baseball playoffs Saturday, the Gauchos won much more than the best-of-three series.

Saddleback also won the right to play the second round of the playoffs at home. This is a first for Saddleback under the current playoff format, which has been used since 1988. Saddleback has lost in the second round on the road in each of the last two seasons.

The Gauchos advanced largely because of solid pitching from starter Michael Palumbo and reliever Kyle Kane. Palumbo gave up a run and two hits in the first six innings and Kane gave up two singles in the final three innings for his second save.

Palumbo (9-1) struggled early, giving up a run in the first. He was in trouble again in the second. Southwestern had runners on second and third, but Palumbo struck out leadoff batter Ben Solano for the third out. That also started a string of 13 in a row he retired before leaving the game after the sixth.

"It was time for him to come out," Saddleback Coach Jack Hodges said, "Plus, it was time for Kyle [Kane] to get his work in."

Saddleback also got solid pitching from Pat Versluis and reliever Ryan Poe in beating Southwestern, 5-2, Friday.

"Our [pitchers] went out there and did their jobs," Hodges said. "When they do that it makes us look pretty smart."

Danny Rivas, a sophomore third baseman, was the offensive star for Saddleback Saturday, getting a single, a double and a home run. He drove in six runs.

Rivas lined a single to right-center that drove in two runs and gave Saddleback, which was the designated visitor, a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. His hit followed a key double by Greg Ferrell.

Saddleback (35-8) put the game away with four runs in the seventh. Kirk Bolling and Ferrell had sacrifice flies and Rivas drove in the final two runs with a double to center. It was Bolling's second sacrifice fly of the game.

Ferrell added another run-scoring double and Rivas followed with a two-run home run over the left field fence in the ninth. It was his fifth homer of the season.

Nick Punto scored three runs and Ryan Ruiz had two singles and scored twice for Saddleback, which starts regional play against College of the Canyons (30-13) on Friday. Grossmont (35-12) takes on Cuesta (39-7) in the other game at Saddleback. The times will be determined Monday.

Rancho Santiago, which has won three of the last four state titles, will host the other regional. The Dons open against Riverside (36-10) and Cypress (35- 10-1) plays Los Angeles Harbor (34-11-1).

The double-elimination tournaments continue Saturday and the championship games at each site are at 11 a.m. next Sunday.

In other Southern California Sectional baseball tournaments:

Rancho Santiago 16, San Bernardino Valley 0--Kevin Burford was two for five with two RBIs, Josh Reding was two for six with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Cypress 5, Hancock 1--Greg Jacobs held Hancock to one run on four hits and struck out 13 through 7 1/3 innings for Cypress to complete a two-game sweep in a best of three-game series.

Brian Greene did not give up a hit and struck out four in 1 2/3 innings for the save.

Craig Kuzmic hit his 15th home run of the season for Cypress, breaking Jason Hodges' single-season team mark of 14 set in 1994.

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