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Palmdale Claims Duel in Desert

Baseball: Hodge's home run, Kennedy's run-scoring single carry Falcons past Highland, 4-3.


PALMDALE — A boring, routine baseball game it was not.

The theatrics began with two of the best pitchers in the region, Matt Harrington of Palmdale High firing fastballs in the mid 90s and Matt Parris of Highland surrendering only one hit until the fifth inning.

The drama continued when a Palmdale player hit a three-run home run in the fifth, three days after being cleared by a judge to play against Highland.

It ended with an unusual defensive play by relief pitcher Brandon MacNeil, giving Palmdale one final push on the way to a 4-3 victory Friday.

It was just the beginning. The game was a Golden League opener and the teams play two more times.

Harrington, among the top prospects in the nation, impressed the phalanx of scouts in attendance, being clocked as fast as 96 mph on radar guns and keeping his fastball in the mid-90s into the sixth inning.

But Highland's skilled hitters got to Harrington, scoring in the first, third and fourth innings for a 3-0 lead.

In the meantime, Parris of Highland kept Palmdale quiet, allowing only a single by Drew Kennedy through four innings.

Then came the fifth.

Parris hit the leadoff batter and found himself in trouble when Harrington, the next batter, dribbled a roller down the third-base line for an infield single.

Up came Cory Hodge.

On Tuesday, Hodge, a junior, was cleared to play by a judge even though Ron Anello, junior varsity coach at Highland, has a restraining order against Hodge.

The order was brought against Hodge after he allegedly struck Anello with his car in January. Hodge is prohibited from getting within 100 yards of Anello for three years.

In a separate hearing Tuesday, Hodge was arraigned on one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of battery on a school employee.

Hodge, who transferred from Highland before the school year began, hit a three-run home run off Parris, tying the game in the fifth, 3-3.

"It's been very tough," Hodge said.

"A lot of mental stuff's been going through my mind. I'm just trying to play baseball."

Said Coach Mike Van Cheri of Highland: "Cory's a good hitter. We knew that. I wish him all the best at Palmdale."

Kennedy, also a transfer from Highland, gave Palmdale a 4-3 lead in the fifth, driving in Robert Arellano with a single to right.

Highland (4-3) threatened in the sixth with runners at first and second and one out, but Harrington struck out Tom Gonzales and, on the same play, D.J. Medlin was picked off at first on a snap throw from catcher Jason Parker.

Ryan Golphenee, a Highland assistant, was ejected after arguing the call.

In the seventh, MacNeil, in relief of Harrington, gave up a two-out walk to Jason Kubel. The next batter, John Santor, lined a shot up the middle.

MacNeil was hit by the ball, but hustled off the mound and threw to first base in time.

Palmdale (5-2) had won.

Harrington (3-0) struck out 11, walked five and allowed five hits in six innings.

Parris (2-1), clocked as high as 92 mph on the speed gun, struck out seven, walked none, hit two batters and allowed six hits, five of them in the fifth.

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