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Warming to Task, Woodland Hills Puts Winning Streak at 17

July 18, 1998|PETER YOON

It's been hot, real hot.

So has the Woodland Hills El Camino Real, which has won 17 consecutive American Legion baseball games.

Woodland Hills El Camino Real celebrated the rise in temperature by displaying its heat strokes, collecting 13 hits in a 9-5 victory over North Hollywood Poly in the third round of the District 20 playoffs Friday at Birmingham High.

Woodland Hills El Camino Real (26-2) will play either Van Nuys Notre Dame or Newhall Saugus Hart today at 11 a.m. at Valley College.

"The heat is all a state of mind," Woodland Hills El Camino Real Coach Rob Bumgarner said. "As long as we're scoring runs, we don't feel it."

As for the pressure created by the winning streak, well, that might be a different story.

"I'll pay you not to publish that," Bumgarner said when posed a question about the length of the streak.

But the winning streak is not of utmost importance in the playoffs. It's a double-elimination tournament so even if the streak is broken, Woodland Hills El Camino Real could still win.

"You can't think about win streaks now," Bumgarner said. "Right now we just have to win every game one at a time. If we lose then we go in the loser's bracket and we've got to win there."

Woodland Hills El Camino Real won its first eight games this season before losing consecutive games. One of those losses was an 8-7 decision against Newhall Saugus Hart.

But don't expect the streak to end if the bats stay as hot as they've been.

The Woodland Hills El Camino Real lineup features six players batting .385 or better. Seven starters had at least one hit against North Hollywood Poly. Conor Jackson and Matt Schwartz each had three hits and Sean McElroy had two, including a home run on the first pitch in the seventh inning.

"It's a different guy every day," Bumgarner said.

Win or lose today, Woodland Hills El Camino Real must play a doubleheader. The team will play a minimum of three more games and could rack up as many as six games in four days, which will stretch its pitching staff.

"Hopefully everyone will run out of pitching before we do," Bumgarner said. "We have three quality starters left [Johnny Koegel, Ryan Gunches and John Deneau] and hopefully three more games."

Woodland Hills El Camino Real scored five runs in the first inning when Schwartz and Kurt Birkins each hit two-run singles.

The offensive outburst helped overcome a shaky outing by Birkins, the teams's top pitcher who has signed with UCLA.

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