East County Sports

Cougars thwart Eagle title plans

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP BASEBALL
STEELE CANYON 6, GRANITE HILLS 1

By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

RANCHO SAN DIEGO —- Forty-eight hours earlier, Steele Canyon was effectively eliminated from the Grossmont Hills League pennant race by Helix. So the Cougars thought they’d try to duplicate the effort — and did.

Steele Canyon, which leads all teams listed among the honorable mention in the CIF San Diego Section media poll, placed a major dent in the title pursuit of Granite Hills, breaking the Eagles’ deadlock for first place by taking a 6-1 decision on Friday (May 28).

Still. Granite Hills barely controls its own destiny to claim at least a share of the league crown. The Eagles must sweep their final pair of regular-season contests, including Tuesday “battle royale” at Grossmont on Tuesday.

“To be honest we’re a bit disappointed we didn’t finish off a couple of other league games,” Steele Canyon head coach Jesse Evans said. “We feel we could have won the league this year. The Hills League is a lot of fun.

For Steele Canyon, credit pitcher Sebastian Granados for halting the bats of Granite. The senior came within one out of a complete game before his pitch-count meter ran out.

Still, Granados finished with 11 strikeouts in throwing a 2-hitter. Because of a seventh-inning error and a walk, Branden Jackel entered from the bullpen with the potential game-tying run at the on-deck circle, but he registered the final out to garner the save on a fielder’s choice grounder.

“Our approach was different not only for me as a pitcher but also our team at the plate,” Granados said. “When we found out we were getting Ponciano, we looked back at game one and he’s a big off-speed guy that loves pitching backward, so we were able to work counts and were expecting off-speed, then reacting to his fastball.”

Granados also registered the game-breaking hit to end his pitchers’ duel with Noa Ponciano, the Hills’ earned-run average leader.

“As a pitcher, I had to do the exact same as game one, just hunting my fastball. So today, I worked differently. I had to mix in my curveball, slider, and change, then try to blow it by them here and there. That’s honestly the reason why we’re able to come out on top against the Eagles.”

In the third inning, Will James stroked a one-out double, moving to third base on a Jake Entrekin basehit., then home to score on an error. Granados followed with a ground single up the middle to plate Entrekin for a 2-0 lead.

“Entrekin is one of the best hitters in the county,” Evans said. “I’d put him up against any other father in the county offensively and defensively. He and Granados are incredible to watch work together.”

Tommy Molina walked to place runners on the corners, but when he headed for second base on a double steal, Granados also came home for push the cushion to three runs.

Molina added a pair of hits.

“I just jumped on the first pitch on both of my at-bats and they happened to be fastballs,” Molina said. “Our team really needed this win after losing a good game to Grossmont hat we should’ve won.”

The Cougars also had a chance to score in the fourth after loading the bases, but consecutive line-drive outs ended the opportunity.

Both clubs scored in the sixth inning.

Granite Hills avoided the shutout bid without the aid of a basehit. A walk, an error, and a hit batter loaded the bases, followed by a two-out walk to Ethan McNish-Heider forcing in the run. Granados escaped the jam on a three-pitch strikeout.

The Cougars answered back on a wild pitch and a double steal, as a pair of batters hit by a pitch set up the frame. Diego Cenicero, pinch-running for Entrekin, took off for second base, with Will James rambling home on the throw.

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