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Cypress Advances to State Baseball Tournament

Community colleges: It beats L.A. Harbor, 4-3, to win the Southern California playoffs.


SANTA ANA — All season long Cypress Coach Scott Pickler has talked about his lack of an ace, which has made him use more pitchers than ever.

For that reason, Cypress had enough experienced pitchers to beat Los Angeles Harbor, 4-3, Sunday in the Southern California playoffs and advance to the state tournament.

L.A. Harbor forced a second game by beating Cypress, 5-4, earlier Sunday.

In the second game, Cypress started ace reliever Brian Greene, who was the loser in the opening game, and used three more pitchers to hold off L.A. Harbor, which seemed ready to break out in the eighth inning.

The Seahawks (37-13-1) scored a run to cut the lead to 4-3. The bases were loaded with two outs and many of the 350 spectators were on their feet. Things looked bleak for Cypress when reliever Brian Snapp threw two consecutive balls to Sterling Bullock.

Pickler then went to freshman right-hander Jim Kirkland, who was making his 12th appearance of the season. Before Kirkland threw a warmup pitch, he appeared to get a pointed lecture from sophomore catcher Craig Kuzmic.

Kirkland threw two consecutive strikes before Bullock hit a line drive at second baseman Nahum Renteria to end the inning. Afterward, Kuzmic explained what he said.

"Actually, we've been pretty good friends this whole year," Kuzmic said. "He's always telling me to smile when I don't do well, so I told him just to smile a little bit and have some fun."

Kirkland got two quick outs in the ninth before Terry DeWan, who earlier had a two-run home run, got an infield single. Eric Diaz entered as a pinch-runner but was caught trying to steal second to end the game.

Kuzmic's throw bounced a little in front of the base, but second baseman Renteria dug it out and made a perfect tag. Kuzmic threw out five of six runners in the four second-round games.

"I was getting a little nervous in the bullpen," said Kirkland, who earned his first save. "But once I got in there, I was relaxed . . . Kuz told me to get them quick in the ninth, then he was going to tackle me. I was right there on the bottom of the pile looking at him face to face."

Greene (8-3) pitched five-plus innings for the victory, but reliever Tony Palazzolo made the first vital contribution in relief.

He came in with runners on first and third and none out in the sixth but got Jon Weber, L.A. Harbor's top hitter, to fly to shallow left. Gary Sloan then hit into an inning-ending double play started by third baseman Randy Case.

Cypress (38-11-1) scored all of its runs in the first inning. Scott Daeley singled and Kuzmic walked. Greg Jacobs then bunted and beat it out for a single. Brian Flanagan doubled to the fence in right-center to drive in three runs. Flanagan went to third on a flyout and scored on a squeeze by Junior Rodriguez.

Flanagan had seven runs batted in and Jacobs was seven for 15 in the four games.

Cypress plays College of the Sequoias and Cuesta plays Sacramento on Saturday at Fresno College in the first round of the state tournament. Times will be announced today.

"That was intense," Pickler said. "It should be great preparation for next weekend."

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