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Kennedy Won't Bottom Out in the Seventh

High school baseball: Golden Cougars fight off last strike three times, rally to beat Westlake, 3-2.


GRANADA HILLS — Three times in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday, Kennedy High batters were one strike away from defeat. It hardly made them sweat.

"They know if they have one strike left, they're still in the ballgame," Coach Manny Alvarado said.

Trailing by a run against top-ranked Westlake, with two out and no one on base, the Golden Cougars rallied for an improbable 3-2 victory against closer Ryan McCarthy in a San Fernando Valley tournament game at Kennedy.

Adam Geery walked on a 3-and-2 count. Phil Avlas singled on a 3-and-2 count. Chris Schreiber walked on another 3-and-2 count, loading the bases.

Bobby Phillips hit a ground ball to shortstop Jamie Hesselgesser, who threw a one-hopper past first baseman Tyler Adamczyk, allowing the tying and winning runs to score.

"This is as close to a big game as you can get in March," Alvarado said.

Kennedy, defending City champion, wanted to prove a City team could compete against one of the best teams in the Southern Section.

The game matched strength against strength.

Westlake (3-1) had California-bound pitcher Adamczyk, who allowed seven hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings.

Kennedy (3-0) countered with All-City pitcher Adam Geery, who struck out seven and limited the Warriors to one run in six innings.

Westlake had Georgia Tech-bound catcher Mike Nickeas, who hit a home run to left field in the fourth inning, threw out a runner trying to steal second and picked off another runner.

Kennedy countered with Avlas, City co-player of the year, who had three singles and threw out two runners trying to steal second.

How many games feature catchers as the dominant players?

"It was pretty fun," Avlas said.

Added Westlake Coach Chuck Berrington: "Those were two great players."

Avlas breathed a sigh of relief during his critical at-bat in the seventh. The count was 2-and-2 when he took an inside curveball.

"It could have been a strike," he said.

It was called a ball and Avlas then singled to keep the inning alive.

"We never stopped battling," he said. "We wanted this game from the start."

Kennedy is on a roll, dating to the City playoffs last season, when the Golden Cougars knocked off Carson, Chatsworth, Banning and El Camino Real to win their sixth City title.

They have tough games ahead, starting with today's game against Valencia and games next week against El Camino Real, Chatsworth and West Torrance.

But the Golden Cougars have big goals.

"There are bigger dreams this year, beating better teams and being the best team," Geery said.

"We have to take it one at a time."

For Westlake, there are more important days ahead.

"We didn't lose a league championship or a [Southern Section] championship," Berrington said. "But it hurts."

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