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Highland Has Extra Wind Against Palmdale, 7-4

May 13, 1999|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Neither dust nor swirling wind nor blinding sun on Wednesday could prevent Highland High from experiencing a historic moment in the eight-year history of its baseball program.

After pitcher Tom Gonzales got Robert Arellano to hit into a game-ending double play, Highland celebrated a 7-4 victory over host Palmdale. The victory clinched at least a share of the Golden League championship for the Bulldogs, their first.

"We're so excited," catcher Jason Allec said.

"My mouth was so dry in that last inning I couldn't swallow," said Coach Mike Van Cheri. "I'm 49 years old and I feel like I'm 18. This is a big moment for our program."

Highland (18-6, 12-2 in league) opened a 6-1 lead, then held off Palmdale (17-7, 11-3) in the final nerve-racking inning.

Gonzales, known as a groundball pitcher, faced a bases-loaded jam. But Arellano hit a grounder to shortstop Ryan Olsson, who flipped it to second baseman John Santor for the forceout, and Santor threw to first baseman Daniel Champieux to complete the double play.

Defense was the difference. Palmdale committed four errors. A passed ball, wild pitch and an errant pickoff throw allowed three Highland runners to score.

In contrast, the Bulldogs flourished behind Allec, who hit his seventh home run and effectively blocked balls, allowing pitchers Drew Kennedy (5-0) and Gonzales to feel comfortable on the mound.

"I do all I can to keep the ball in front of me," Allec said.

Allec, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound senior, dreamed of winning a Golden League championship. He'll fulfill another dream, playing Division I baseball, by signing today with Cal State Northridge.

"He's the best catcher in the Golden League," Van Cheri said.

Allec might be the best catcher in the region the way he plays defensively.

Kennedy pitched strongly, holding the Falcons to one run through four innings. He also contributed two singles. Brandon Golphenee added two hits for Highland.

Palmdale rallied briefly in the fifth inning, pulling within 6-4 on a two-run double by Arellano. But Gonzales pitched three innings of shutout relief.

Highland and Palmdale meet again on Friday in the regular-season finale at Highland. Even if Highland loses and shares the league title, the Bulldogs will be the league's top-seeded team for the playoffs because they defeated Palmdale twice this season.

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