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Chatsworth, Cassel Overpower Carson

He tosses one-hitter and strikes out nine as Chancellors win City Section baseball title with 3-0 victory at Dodger Stadium.

June 11, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

He came to Chatsworth High as a football player, a quarterback with a rifle release and the ability to take his team down the field -- first down, first down, touchdown, again and again.

Four years later, Justin Cassel leaves Chatsworth as a baseball player, converting his spiral-throwing touch into one of the best arms to ever pitch for the tradition-steeped baseball program, the latest example coming Tuesday night before 4,000 fans at Dodger Stadium.

Cassel took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and ended up with a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory over Carson in the City Section championship that gave Chatsworth (33-1) its third title in five seasons.

Cassel (15-0) struck out nine, walked two and was three outs away from the first no-hitter in the City final since Bret Saberhagen did it for Reseda Cleveland in 1982 against Palisades.

"This is the dream season," Cassel said. "33-1 and my personal record of 15-0. That's how you want to finish it."

It ended a busy two weeks for Cassel, who was selected in the 30th round by Oakland in last week's first-year player draft.

Cassel, who has signed with UC Irvine, pitched 20 scoreless innings in the playoffs, giving up eight hits and striking out 19 batters.

Cassel was coming off three days' rest for the first time this season. He picked up a save last Friday with two scoreless innings in a 4-3 semifinal victory over Wilmington Banning.

Two days before that, he pitched a four-hitter in a 2-0 victory over Granada Hills Kennedy.

In the end, Cassel set Chatsworth single-season records for victories, strikeouts (119 in 99 innings) and shutouts (eight). He also had a 1.13 earned-run average.

"This guy is going to keep going up the ladder," Carson Coach Kurt Ruth said. "At times he was unhittable."

Cassel was expected to follow in the steps of his brother Matt, a backup quarterback at USC, but he gave up football as a freshman.

There were always those who continued to hope -- last fall, he was erroneously listed as a top-flight football player in a recruiting publication -- but Cassel adamantly stood by his decision to trade shoulder pads for rosin bags.

That was too bad for Carson (24-10).

Jon Sims broke up Cassel's no-hit attempt in the top of the seventh with a single to the right side of second base. Other than that, Cassel did his part to ensure a possible mythical national title for Chatsworth, ranked No. 1 in the nation in at least one publication.

"He let everyone know out here why he's so successful," catcher Jordan Sisson said. "His curveball was great. It was everyday normal Cassel."

It didn't take long for Chatsworth to score. Leadoff hitter Keith Renno reached first on a fielding error by third baseman Johnny Rodriguez, stole second and scored on Sisson's two-out single to left.

Near no-hitter aside, another City championship rarity took place in the sixth inning when Bryan Petersen hit a two-run home run to right-center for a 3-0 lead.

"It's unreal to do that at a big league park," Peterson said. "I'm stoked."

So was Chatsworth. And Cassel. The quarterback turned into a pretty good pitcher after all.

In the Invitational final, Dylan Cohen and Evan Reis each had three hits and drove in two runs for Palisades (21-9) in a 10-0, five-inning victory over Granada Hills (15-18).

It was Coach Russ Howard's final game after 18 seasons at Palisades, which received a one-hitter from Dylan Forrester.

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