The City Section championship game in high school baseball is a little more than a month away at Dodger Stadium, but there was a playoff-like atmosphere Monday in a Valley Mission League game between San Fernando and host Granada HIlls Kennedy.
"It was a typical San Fernando-Kennedy rivalry game," San Fernando Coach Armando Gomez said. "Everybody's fired up."
In the end, a pitchers' duel into the seventh inning was broken up by Steven Campos' run-scoring single and a sacrifice fly by Carlos Robles, giving San Fernando (23-4, 9-0) a 3-1 victory and first place in the league.
Most remarkable was the unflappable Alonzo Garcia, a sophomore pitcher who improved to 10-0 with a six-hitter.
In the sixth inning, he was hit on the hand by a line drive. The game was stopped briefly while Gomez checked to see if Garcia was OK. Garcia calmly went back on the mound with Kennedy (14-7, 8-1) having runners on first and second bases with two out in a 1-1 game. The count went full and Garcia got a groundout.
"The way he acts is kind of amazing," San Fernando senior shortstop Isaac Dominguez said. "He acts like a senior. He's a phenomenal pitcher."
Said Garcia: "We knew we had to come out with intensity. They're a good hitting team. It was a hard-fought battle."
Garcia struck out five and walked one. The Tigers committed an error and turned two double plays. Garcia was matched for much of the game by Pablo Gonzalez, who struck out seven and gave up nine hits.
Kennedy's run came in the first inning on an inside-the-park home run by Chris Mallon, who also had a single.
San Fernando broke through in the seventh inning on a leadoff single by Bobby Berumen. Freddie Flores then reached base on a bunt when the throw to second base was late. Dominguez sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Campos came through with his clutch single.
With eight starters back from last season's City Division I championship game, San Fernando has the experience and defense to support Garcia. The players seemed to relax in pressure situations, which is a good sign for playoff time next month. And Gomez said playing at Dodger Stadium helped everyone.
"It shows," he said. "They smiled on the field in the seventh inning. In the past, they'd be all tight. It did a lot for our ego and for our confidence, and now we go out knowing we can compete against anyone."
The two teams play again Thursday at San Fernando.