Los Angeles Preps: Austin Pettibone

Inland Empire and Orange County: Riverside North 7, Esperanza 1

June, 3, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- What a difference a year makes.

Better yet, what a difference two years makes.

Riverside North accomplished something baseball onlookers, avid and recreational alike, thought to be impossible with Friday night's 7-1 come-from-behind victory over Anaheim Esperanza in a Southern Section Division 1 title game at Dodger Stadium.

In the span of two short years, the Huskies -- somehow, someway -- transformed themselves from an underachieving 4-24 program in 2009 into champions in 2011.

“We've always had a good ball club, a dedicated group, we just had to be patient and wait for our turn to shine,'' North coach Steve Madril said. “I'm not sure if people thought that we were slouches, or soft, but this win proves that we belong, finally.''

Esperanza (23-11) jumped out to one-run lead in the first.

The Huskies (27-7), however, were resilient throughout.

Trailing by a run in the top of the fourth inning, North rallied. Steven Pena, Andrew Saucedo and Eddy Rodriguez reached base to start things off and then scored. A single by Juan DeLaCruz capped off the comeback and gave the Huskies their first lead of the game, 3-1.

Esperanza attempted to answer in the bottom of the fourth. Ryan Aguilar delivered a two-out single and appeared to be heading home for an easy run on a Ryan McCall base hit to center. Pena threw a strike from the outfield to nail Aguilar at the plate though. Inning over.

“I knew I wasn't going to hit my cut-off man, so I just did whatever it took to get the ball to home as fast as I could,'' Pena said. “As an outfielder, you don't like to be challenged by runners. I wanted to make them pay for trying to score on me, that's all.''

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710 ESPN Radio reporter Pete Fox takes a preview look at the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 baseball championship matchup between J.W. North and Esperanza.

It will be a battle of unseeded teams looking for respect with a chance to win a title in the section's largest division.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
LONG BEACH -- Austin Pettibone knew that if Esperanza won Tuesday night, he'd be taking the mound under the bright lights at Dodger Stadium on Friday. He had to get his hands a little dirty but, sure enough, the Aztecs' ace will toe the rubber at Chavez Ravine.

The right-hander threw two scoreless innings of relief Tuesday, earning the save and helping Esperanza beat Long Beach Wilson, 6-2, in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section-Ford Championships, presented by Farmers. The Aztecs advanced to Friday night's Division 1 title game at Dodger Stadium, where Pettibone will face off against Riverside J.W. North, which beat Moore League champion Lakewood, 10-4, in the other semifinal.

"It's what you always dream about," Pettibone said. "Pitching at a major league park, in a championship game. Getting the last six outs was nerve-racking, but I knew I had to calm down, throw my stuff and get it done."

Pettibone has three wins and a save in Esperanza's four playoff games. Aztecs head coach Mike Curran never hesitated to bring in his top arm. Six outs away from a trip to the final?

Easiest decision ever.

"He's our guy," Curran said, "we're going to him."

Esperanza (23-10) erased a one-run deficit with a four-run fourth and never looked back. Wilson (26-7) had taken a 2-1 lead in the top half of the inning on a Stefan Miladinovich two-run double that might have gone out at most high school fields. The pro-Bruins crowd could care less, though, as the bleachers at Blair Field rattled loudly.

But the Bruins coughed up the lead on a throwing error by second baseman Daniel DeWolf. They had the tying run at the plate against Pettibone in the sixth, but Mitch Mossman's acrobatic throw to first put an end to the threat.

"That charge and flip was huge," Curran said.

The Aztecs added an insurance run in the sixth to all but punch their tickets to Los Angeles. A potential, intriguing all-Moore League championship game loomed on the horizon. Instead, both Wilson and Lakewood fell in a park they're more than familiar with. The Bruins had won 11 straight.

"I knew we were going to do it," Pettibone said. "When we rolled up I knew we were going to win."
The defending champion is out. So is the No. 2 seed. In one stunning upset, Mater Dei is history, a footnote to the 2011 Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs.

Esperanza took down the Monarchs, 5-1, on Friday in the section quarterfinals.

The Aztecs (22-10) will play Long Beach Wilson (26-6) in the semifinals Tuesday at Blair Field as part of a doubleheader. Wilson defeated Simi Valley, 2-0.

The other semifinal will include Lakewood — which defeated top-seeded Edison, 3-1 — against Riverside North, a 6-2 winner over Dana Hills. None of the remaining teams were seeded in the top four.

Esperanza pitcher Austin Pettibone didn't give up a run until Jeremy Martinez homered in the seventh inning. for Mater Dei (24-6).

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