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CALABASAS — Senior outfielder Desi Gonzalez couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present.
Trailing Gahr 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinal at Calabasas, Gonzalez hit a two-run single with the bases loaded while facing a full count.
The hit gave the Coyotes the lead, which they expanded to 3-1 after an RBI single by Phoenix Call.
Calabasas maintained the 3-1 advantage until the final out, defeating Gahr on Friday to keep its postseason run alive.
The Coyotes will travel to South Hills Tuesday for a Division 2 semifinal matchup.
“I’m just happy that I get to keep playing baseball,” said Gonzalez, who turned 18 on Friday. “We’re all having fun and we just want to keep going.”
“He’s such a great kid and a great player. He works so hard,” Calabasas coach Thomas Cassidy said about Gonzalez. “I’m really happy that he came through for the team and also for himself as well.”
The first four innings featured a battle between pitchers, as Calabasas’ Jordan Kingston and Gahr’s Jaden Alba held their opposition to zeros on the scoreboard.
The Gladiators broke through in the top of the fifth with a sacrifice fly by Alahni Salcedo, which scored Adam Ortiz. Ortiz had subbed in as a pinch runner for Bryce Morrison after he led off the inning with a single.
With the bases loaded, Gahr had an opportunity to score more runs in the fifth inning, but Kingston was able to get out of the jam.
“I was just trying to execute my pitches and let my defense work,” Kingston said. “Just trying to minimize the bases loaded.”
The Calabasas junior pitched a complete game and finished with five strikeouts.
Alba, an Arizona State commit, pitched through 4 2/3 innings and finished with five strikeouts as well.
“We wanted to come out and attack them, play to their weaknesses,” Alba said. “We wanted to keep the ball on the ground, keep it to a minimum. That one inning killed us, but we still battled back and fought.”
Facing the final three outs of the game, Kingston squared off against the bottom of Gahr’s lineup. Salcedo got on base with a single, followed by a single from Andres Gonzalez.
But again, showing he could get out of a jam, Kingston struck out the next batter and forced the next two hitters into pop flys to end the contest.
“We always try to compete the best we can from the start of the first inning to the seventh inning,” Alba said. “We’ve had to battle back a lot this year, so we always knew we could stay in this game. We just didn’t come out on top this time.”
The Coyotes will face a South Hills team that won the Hacienda League and topped West Ranch 2-1 on Friday.
With work still to be done this postseason and a date with Huskies on Tuesday, Gonzalez was going to opt for a quiet birthday celebration with his teammates.
“Me and the boys are going to go back to my house, hit the hot tub and eat some pizza,” he said with a smile.
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