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ENCINO — Crespi baseball faced perhaps its toughest challenge of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs thus far in Santiago of Corona.
The Sharks put the pressure on by tying the game in the top of the sixth inning, but the Celts scored four runs in the bottom of the inning to win 7-4 and secure a trip to the semifinals.
“We’ve been feeling pressure throughout our whole season,” Crespi senior Isaiah Magdaleno said. “We’ve been playing in the Mission League so it’s good competition for us. We’re used to getting punched in the mouth and then punching right back.”
Crespi will play at Aquinas on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. in the semifinals.
Magdaleno went 2 for 4 at the plate with a two-run home run. Niko Kougher was 2 for 3 and gave up three hits in five innings of pitching.
Kougher got the starting nod Friday when Magdaleno couldn’t properly “get loose to his ability” during warmups, coach Mike Glendenning said. The Hawaii-bound senior played first base for the day and is expected to be healthy for the next game.
“Last year around the start of spring time, that was the first time I went a five-inning game,” Kougher said. “Today was the first time I threw over two innings in probably a year. It felt amazing.”
Troy Miller got the scoring started for the Celts with an RBI triple in the first inning that drove in Kougher, who got on base with a shot through the 5-6 hole. Magdaleno homered in the third inning to give his team a 3-0 advantage.
“I trusted my hands, saw the pitch really good and just let it go,” he said. “I kept my same approach that we talk about every day.”
Santiago’s Ethan Monroe drove in a run with a single in the top of the fourth inning and Tyler Blade hit an RBI single to get the Sharks within one run of tying the game.
Monroe doubled in the sixth inning to even the score at 3-3.
Magdaleno and Ethan Kodama each singled to put runners on first and second and Kougher bunted to force a fielder’s choice that resulted in a run. The Celts rattled the Sharks enough to score three more runs in the inning.
“I liked the grit, the grind of their at-bats to put balls in play and make the defense have to handle the ball,” Glendenning said. “And when you do that, you know good things are going to happen.”
Bryce Dean doubled in the seventh inning and scored the Sharks’ final run when Isaiah Hernandez singled.
Santiago returns most of its team next season, which coach Ty De Trinidad is already looking forward to.
“I’m hoping they take the memories they made,” he said, “but more importantly, getting better for next year so that when these type of situations come up, we don’t panic. That’s the big key.”
Crespi is moving on to the penultimate round of the playoffs after losing in the first round of Division 3 last season. They came in third in Mission League play this season and although they have momentum now, the Celts maintain an underdog mentality.
“We can’t be satisfied. We still have a long road ahead of us,” Magdaleno said. “Whatever we’ve done, we haven’t done anything yet.”
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