LOS ANGELES -- Pressure is privilege. That is the slogan for the El Camino Real baseball team.
JJ Crane could not have been in a more pressure-packed situation. With his team down a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, runners on second and third with two outs, full count, he hit a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield that found the fringe of the outfield.
It scored the tying run and was hit just deep enough to allow the winning run to score. El Camino Real won the CIF City Section Division I championship game, 5-4, in extra innings at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
It was just another day at the office for Crane. He said after the game he didn’t feel any pressure in his last at-bat.
“I wasn’t really nervous because I was in that situation before,” Crane said. “It couldn’t have been a better game. I’ve dreamed about that since I started baseball when I was 3 years old.”
But this was certainly no ordinary day.
Crane, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, came up with one of the biggest hits in the history of El Camino Real baseball. He had to prove to his coaches that he was worthy to be in that situation.
Coach Josh Lienhard benched Crane midway through the season because his production was lacking and made him work his way back into the lineup. Crane responded and Lienhard was rewarded by putting him back in the starting lineup.
“He’s been a huge catalyst for us down the stretch,” Lienhard said. “He’s done a great job there.”
El Camino Real (22-12) was rolling early in the game. The Conquistadores took a 3-0 lead in the second inning and starter Owen Perry was putting up zeros. He tossed five shut-out innings before running into trouble in the sixth inning.
Justin Vega led off the sixth inning with a single and Chris DeVito followed with a double to put runners on second and third with no outs.
Lienhard pulled Perry and put in Justin Russell. He retired the next three batters and kept the shutout intact.
Russell wasn’t so fortunate in the seventh inning.
Chatsworth (28-5-1) scored three runs in the top of the seventh to tie the score and send the game into extra innings.
“We knew Chatsworth was going to come back,” Crane said. “It was just a matter of when.”
Chatsworth took the lead, 4-3, in the top of the ninth inning. Chris Voets squeezed in Justin Vega and reached first on an error by the third baseman.
Jason Karkenny pitched seven innings for Chatsworth. He gave up three runs on 10 hits and left in the eighth after walking Crane to lead off the inning.
Kiefer Kofman came in to relieve Karkenny and worked his way out of the inning.
But El Camino Real jumped on Kofman in the ninth inning. Mitchell Dergazarian led off with a single and Hayden Rappoport followed with a single one out later to put runners on first and third.
Josh Pope struck out for the second out of the inning bringing Crane to the plate.
He worked the count full and punched a grounder to the hole between second and third.
Lienhard said he was relieved to see the ball find its way to the outfield.
“From a coach’s perspective, it’s a good game when you win,” Lienhard said.
Crane said winning the City Section championship will finally put his team’s doubters to rest.
“Everyone was against us,” Crane said. “We proved that we should be the one seed. We knew we had it in us.”