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Mission Impossible | High School Baseball / Playoffs

Crespi Is Beaten at Own Game

Division I: Pitching and defense are not enough this time. Millikan earns 2-1 victory.


LONG BEACH — Brian Felten ran out of aces up his sleeve. Nick Rita ran out of flashy fielding plays.

As a result, Crespi High, propelled largely by pitching and defense this season, fell to Millikan, 2-1, in a Southern Section Division I baseball semifinal Tuesday at Blair Field.

Rita, a senior second baseman, made 10 assists, including a few impressive plays. But his throw to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning arrived too late to retire Josh Weller, who slid home with the winning run on a soft chopper by Preston Griffin.

Rita gloved the ball behind the mound and made an off-balance throw. It was the only ball hit to him that did not result in an out.

"It was just a slow roller," Rita said. "A tough ball to get to."

Felten (11-2), a senior right-hander and the Celts' ace, almost forced extra innings by working out of his second jam of the game. After allowing two singles and a walk, Felten struck out Tim Cotley for the first out but Griffin didn't hit the double-play ball Felten needed.

Crespi (22-9) already had one double play and nearly made another, both involving Rita.

With the scored tied in the fifth, Rita came to Felten's aid with Millikan's Matt Williams at third. Positioned on the infield grass, Rita made a leaping grab of Griffin's high chopper, looked Williams back to the bag and threw to first for the second out of the inning. Felten retired the side on a fly ball.

Felten, who pitched in every playoff game, recording two victories and a save, was impressive. He allowed one hit through six innings, striking out three and walking one for the Celts, the second-place team in the Mission League.

"My arm was fine today," Felten said. "We had the offense going in every [playoff] game except today."

However, Felten might have shown signs of wear. Weller and Ryan Beaver led off the seventh with sharp singles and Williams walked on five pitches. Cotley, before striking out, launched a fly ball that carried over the right-field wall just a few feet to the right of the foul pole.

"It looked like we were going to get it," Crespi Coach Scott Muckey said of the final play. "We put some guys on base and if we could have moved them over. . . . "

Millikan (24-6) will play Esperanza in the final Saturday night at Anaheim Stadium. It marks the Rams' first trip to the final since winning titles in 1991 and '92.

Crespi scored in the first when Felten's sacrifice fly drove in Rita. In the bottom of the inning, Weller's grounder to Rita scored Eric Powell.

A pitcher's duel evolved between Felten and sophomore right-hander Andy Tisdale, who scattered five hits through 4 2/3 innings. Junior right-hander Randy Tymchak (10-2) allowed one hit through 2 1/3 innings.

When it was over, Millikan celebrated near home plate. Rita lay motionless for several moments, his face buried in the grass.

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