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El Camino Real rallies late to defeat Kennedy

Javier Rodriguez's run-scoring triple and Chris Nicholson's sacrifice fly give the Conquistadores a 2-1 victory.

March 08, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

Despite giving up eight walks and hitting two batters in six innings, All-City pitcher Ryan Cruz of Granada Hills Kennedy took a shutout into the bottom of the seventh Monday against defending City Section Division I champion Woodland Hills El Camino Real.

"I was throwing on guts today," he said.

He had a 1-0 lead until the Conquistadores broke through with one out. Chris Whitmer walked. Then Javier Rodriguez, on a 3-and-2 count after fouling off three consecutive pitches, drilled a triple off the wall in center to tie the score. Chris Nicholson followed with a sacrifice fly to give El Camino Real a 2-1 victory in a baseball game that featured two programs that combined have won 13 City titles.

El Camino Real pitcher Jose Cardona, the reigning City player of the year, went from an apparent loss to a victory. He was magnificent from the third inning on, retiring the last 13 batters and finishing with a one-hitter, striking out six and walking two.

The matchup of All-City pitchers giving up few runs could be a preview of what will come when the City playoffs begin in May. There are seven returning All-City pitchers, and the combination of quality pitching and new bats that make it more challenging to hit balls hard probably will result in close, hard-fought games similar to Monday's encounter at El Camino Real.

"The ball doesn't jump off the bat as much as it did last year, which is good," Cardona said.

Cruz usually throws strikes, so his ability to hang tough despite his lack of control added to the respect he has earned. He gave up three infield singles until Rodriguez came up with the first clean hit of the game for El Camino Real (2-4), which has struggled scoring runs.

Kennedy (3-2) scored its only run in the second inning on a double steal.

Cruz threw a shutout a week ago in Kennedy's season opener against Sun Valley Poly. Last season, he had victories over El Camino Real, Chatsworth and San Fernando, three of the top teams in the City.

He was composed after the frustrating defeat.

"You have to use it as a learning experience," he said. "You can't dwell on it. You just have to do better next time."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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