- Blair Angulo, Reporter, WeAreSC.com
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WEST COVINA -- An electric right arm. A compact swing. A keenness for high-stress situations.
Senior Ty France of South Hills put all of his skills on display Thursday afternoon, leading the Huskies to a 4-0 victory against visiting Upland in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 baseball playoffs. France, a San Diego State signee, struck out 11 in a complete-game effort and also drove in three runs.
By the way France looked, you'd never guess it was only his second start of the season.
"I didn't expect him to go seven innings and shut them out. It's just a great effort on his part," South Hills head coach Kevin Smith said. "He's a bulldog. I wish I had 15 of him."
France has been on varsity for four years, experiencing sudden success as a freshman on a South Hills squad that captured the section title. He's a known commodity in the San Gabriel Valley, a slick-fielding shortstop who doubles as his team's closer. Smith, though, wanted his best curveball thrower on the mound against an Upland lineup that scored 22 runs in the wild-card round earlier in the week.
"I love pitching," France said. "I love getting out there and controlling the game."
France did that and more, scattering six hits and walking only two, one of them intentional. He helped his own cause at the plate with a pair of two-out RBI singles, putting South Hills (18-7) up early. UCLA signee Daniel Robertson had half of Upland's hits in his final high school game.
"Getting those two early runs helped a lot," France said.
France escaped trouble in the fifth but got Scots starting pitcher Ryan Ponder to fly out to strand two. CJ Saylor then padded the Huskies' lead with an RBI triple in the bottom of the inning, and France followed with a sacrifice fly to score Saylor.
It was all too much for Upland (18-10), which threatened again in the sixth before France hit the switch to closer mode. Smith checked up on his pitcher in between innings.
"I knew what he was going to tell me, but I asked him how I felt," Smith recalled. "He said, 'Coach, I want to finish.' How do you say no to a senior?"
The right-hander buckled down again with two runners on in the seventh to induce the game-ending double play. South Hills, the Sierra League champion, will play Moreno Valley Canyon Springs in the second round on Tuesday.
"If we keep playing the way we've been playing, I don't have any doubt that we can go all the way," France said. "We have a good chance."
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.