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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL

El Camino Real defeats Chatsworth, 7-5

Yannick Villanueva provides a key two-run pinch single, helping the Conquistadores stay in the West Valley League hunt.

April 18, 2012|Eric Sondheimer

When Yannick Villanueva of Woodland Hills El Camino Real was seen in a West Valley League baseball game last month, he had bleached his hair blond and there were strange-looking polka dots on the side.

"I was going for the cheetah spots, and it didn't turn out as I had thought," he said.

On Wednesday, with his hair back to normal, he came off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning in a one-run game against Chatsworth and delivered a two-run single that turned out to be a decisive blow in El Camino Real's 7-5 West Valley League victory.

Justin Russell came on in the seventh and picked up the save to help the Conquistadores (11-10, 2-1) stay in the league title hunt. Chatsworth (15-3-1, 2-1) made three errors and gave up four runs in the first inning in a surprisingly sloppy performance from the nine-time City Section champions.

"We didn't play well," Chatsworth Coach Tom Meusborn said.

Two pitchers who played junior varsity last season and were getting their first taste of the Chatsworth-El Camino Real varsity rivalry tried to get out of the first inning.

El Camino Real junior left-hander Luke Laurita succeeded despite throwing six consecutive balls to start the game. He lasted six innings and got the victory.

Chatsworth junior right-hander Jason Karkenny wasn't so fortunate. After he got the first two batters to ground out, seven consecutive batters reached base, and there was a batter hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and a walk with the bases loaded. He got pulled after giving up four runs.

Chatsworth eventually tied the score at 4-4 in the third inning, getting RBI singles from Hayden Tsutsui and Raul Camas. But El Camino Real went up, 5-4, in the bottom of the third on an RBI double from Chris Nicholson.

Meanwhile, Laurita was doing well pitching out of tough situations.

"I just took a deep breath on the mound, kept my composure and played catch with the catcher," he said.

Center fielder Mitchell Dergazarian, who El Camino Real Coach Josh Lienhard believes is the best defensively in the City Section, made a diving catch chasing a ball hit to his right in the fifth to take away a potential triple from Scott Voets.

"Mitchell comes through when we need him," Laurita said.

The two teams play again Friday at Chatsworth, and Karkenny could get a second chance to start on the mound.

Birmingham (3-0) moved into first place with a 4-2 win over Granada Hills. Jerry Zaragoza had three hits. Taft defeated Cleveland, 2-1.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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