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El Camino Real Teases on Way to Title

Baseball: Leduc's two-run homer helps Conquistadores to the City 4-A championship.


Woodland Hills El Camino Real High toyed with Wilmington Banning on Wednesday night, allowing the Pilots to think they could become only the second team from outside the San Fernando Valley in 25 years to win the City Section Division 4-A title.

Banning thought too soon as El Camino Real won, 13-11, in a game of big innings at Dodger Stadium.

The Conquistadores (20-10) spotted the Pilots (21-12) a three-run lead in the first inning, another three-run lead after two and for good measure a chance to tie in the bottom of the seventh.

El Camino Real has won three of the last five titles, and a Valley team has won 24 of the past 25 City upper division championships.

Banning, which was making its second championship appearance since 1991, scored two runs in the ninth and had runners at first and third when Michael Cockrell fouled out to first to end the game.

Despite giving up eight runs in the first two innings, El Camino Real never gave up.

The Conquistadores (20-10) scored five runs in the fifth inning. They took a 12-9 lead when Raymond Leduc blasted a two-run home run in the sixth.

Banning did its damage against starting pitcher John Koegel and reliever Kurt Birkins, who combined to give up nine runs on seven hits. The big blast was Miguel Gallardo's grand slam in the second that put the Pilots ahead, 8-5.

After Banning added another run in the third, Shaun Fishman--El Camino Real's third pitcher--restored order by retiring the first 10 batters he faced, including five by strikeouts.

Fishman (8-5) earned the victory, striking out five and walking two.

After Koegel gave up a stunning four-run first inning, El Camino Real capitalized on an error and four singles to come back and score four unearned runs in the second to take a 5-4 lead.

Koegel continued to struggle in the second and was replaced by reliever Birkins after hitting No. 9 hitter Jason Pastrano and walking Michael Cockrell. Birkins got Miguel Perez to fly out to right, but walked Nick Garcia. That set up Gallardo to hit his grand slam more than 360 feet into the Dodger bullpen in left field. That capped the Pilots' second four-run inning for an 8-5 lead.

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