LAKE BALBOA -- There was little doubt North Hollywood’s Jason Ruiz was hungry. He missed all of his sophomore baseball season because he was academically ineligible.
When he came up in the top of the sixth, Ruiz had a chance to feast. He knocked in two runs with a double and paced North Hollywood to a 6-3 win over University in the semifinals of the CIF City Section Division II playoffs at Birmingham High School on Thursday.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Ruiz said. “If you just put it in play, it will find a hole.”
The ball found a big hole. His two-run double broke a 2-2 tie and capped a three-run sixth inning.
Eddie Torres led off the sixth inning with a double and Andrew Marmor followed with a single to put runners at first and third with no outs.
Ruiz came up and drove the second pitch he saw to the fence.
“Our team has a lot of character,” North Hollywood coach Hector Menchaca said. “They don’t give up. They showed that today.”
North Hollywood (18-15) will be playing in the City Section Division II championship game for the second year in a row. Ruiz, a junior, missed out on his team’s trip to the championship game last year. But he worked on his academics and was eligible to play his entire junior season.
“I’m so proud of him,” Menchaca said. “He was academically ineligible all last season. He has been taking care of business in the classroom and I am so proud of him.”
North Hollywood took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Torres drove in Carlos Galvez with a two-out single.
University (26-9) scored two runs on a three-base error by North Hollywood right fielder by Michael Sepulveda in the bottom of the first inning.
The Huskies bounced back and tied the score in the second inning on an RBI double by Marvin Galvez.
The scored remained tied, 2-2, until the sixth inning. North Hollywood tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning to take a 6-2 lead.
University brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Vincent Medina scored on a groundout to cut the North Hollywood lead to three runs, 6-3. Marlowe Leal doubled and Alberto Garcia singled to put runners at first and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
But North Hollywood reliever Brayden Harris got Isaac Yoshinaga to ground out to shortstop to end the game.
North Hollywood advances to the championship game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
“It’s exciting,” Ruiz said. “I know we were there last year. It never gets old.”