East County Sports

Cougars get Senior Day dub; Eagles win

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP BASEBALL

ECS staff report

RANCHO SAN DIEGO —- What kind of season could it have been if the West Hills Wolf Pack didn’t need to play the seventh inning?

This week was particularly unfortunate for the Wolf Pack. After their own seventh-inning rally fell short against Helix, on Thursday (June 3), host Steele Canyon was able to seal the deal, stealing a 6-5 decision Senior Day to cap the regular season.

“Glad we were able to win on our Senior Night,” Steele Canyon head coach Jesse Evans said. “We started the game well and finished the game well. Everything in between was not pretty.”

How agonizing was this one for West Hills? Steele Canyon posted three runs in the seventh, with the game-tying and winning runs on consecutive bases-loaded walks to Jake Entrekin and Weston Clark.

“Weston had a great at-bat,” said Entrekin, who will play baseball next season at Point Loma Nazarene. “He fouled off probably eight pitches.”

A bunt single by Nate Custeau loaded the bases, setting up the patient Steele Canyon hitters.

“The plan was to drop the bunt down the third-base line to move the runners,” Custeau said. “But we were fortunate enough that is what perfectly placed to load the bases.”

For Steele Canyon, it had already been a disappointing close to the Grossmont Hills League schedule. Once holding an opportunity to gain a share of the league flag, a 2-2 mark in the third round of play, including Tuesday’s upset loss to last-place Valhalla, left the team with limited momentum heading into the CIF playoffs.

Things got even worse against West Hills, which rallied from a 3-0 first-inning deficit by tallying four times in the sixth, then an insurance run in the seventh for a 5-3 advantage.

Still, the Cougars somehow found a way to the winner’s circle.

A pair of lead walks and a single loaded the bases, then Sebastian Granados stroked a one-out single to trim the deficit to 5-4. Then with two outs and the heart of the Cougars lineup coming up, Entrekin fouled off three pitches before gaining his free pass.

Clark followed with four fouls on consecutive 3-2 pitches in a dramatic walk for the walk-off winner.

Steele Canyon built a quick 3-0 cushion on just three batters. Granados singled, Will James doubled him home, then Entrekin blasted a two-run homer to left field.

“I was 1-0 hanging curveball and it was just a perfect pitch to hit,” Entrekin said. “Hopefully this game gets us going for CIF.”

Meanwhile, Cougars pitchers Sam Rocha (2 2/3 innings) and Cannon Restine (1 2/3 innings) combined on a 1-hit shutout until the Wolf Pack woke up in the sixth.

“I felt very good,” Rocha said. “I tried to convince my coach to let me go further but it wasn’t up to me. I’m just happy our team got the job done on our Senior Night. I had every pitching working and I felt comfortable throwing any pitch in any count.”

A double, walk, and single loaded the bases, then an error snapped the shutout bid.

Aaron Petersen dropped an RBI single into right field to make it 3-2, then No. 9 hitter Owen Rodgers slashed a line double to center, good for two runs and a 4-3 lead. In the seventh, brother Ryan Rodgers stroked a run-scoring single, but the battle of the bullpens turned into anything but.

Steele Canyon (19-10, 10-5 GHL) saw Entrekin finish with three RBI, while Granados and Clark finished with two hits each.

Gabe Diaz earned the decision with 1 2/3 innings of work, allowing no earned runs.

“My pitch to earn the win was my fastball,” Diaz said. “I was just trying to get ahead early in the count.”

West Hills (132-17, 2-13 GHL) received two hits from Kyle Dobyns, Owen Rodgers, and late-inning substitute Bryce Smith.

However, since the Wolf Pack are a Division IV school playing in a league with upper-division schools, their power rating places them as one of the top seeds in the postseason, likely third overall.

According to several projections, a seed of 10th or 11th could mean a playoff opener against, possibly, Foothills Christian. And since the Knights play their home games at Mount Miguel, which also could gain a home contest, West Hills may be able to back in to host the contest as the visiting team playing at Wolf Pack Park.

The Cougars are clearly heading for the No. 3 seed in the Division II playoffs, as well.

Granite Hills 4, Valhalla 0

GRANITE HILLS —- Granite Hills pitcher Noa Ponciano registered 11 strikeouts Thursday (June 3), as the reeling Eagles ended a three-game losing streak by blanking visiting Valhalla, 4-0, to finish second in the Grossmont Hills League.

Ponciano scattered seven Norsemen hits, including three knocks in the fourth inning, then a pair of consecutive leadoff singles in the fifth.

“Attacking the lineup and working to get ahead in the count was the main goal for me,” Ponciano said. “Using fastballs early in the count helped me get ahead of them, then I was able to put them away with my offspeed pitches. It feels good as a team to get back on the winning side after a few tough games.”

However, the game changed after Ponciano allowed a single in the second, then promptly picked off the baserunners. His Eagles teammates responded by immediately ending the scoreless contest.

A walk and a pair of singles loaded the bases, then Austin Smith delivered a thirds consecutive basehit for a 2-0 lead.

“It feels good to get back into the win column,” Smith said. “We are getting ready and focusing on the (Open Division) playoffs. All those games are behind us and we have one goal now.”

Later, single runs came home in the fourth and the fifth.

Smith took off for second base and stole the bag, with James Taylor coming home on the double steal. An inning later, consecutive lead singles allowed Camden Sos to slap a one-out, RBI single for a 4-0 cushion.

“It was important to us that we came out of the regular season winning and with momentum for the playoffs,” Sos said. “Winning is always easier when your pitcher is throwing a gem on the mound, as well.”

Granite Hills (20-9 overall, 11-4) achieved the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2016.

Valhalla (6-22, 2-13 GHL) saw catcher Fernando Hernandez bat 2-for-3, but the Norsemen will miss the postseason for the first time since 2015.

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