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."