South Hills comes through in clutch moments to beat West Ranch, punches ticket to Division 2 semifinals

WEST COVINA — South Hills survived all the big moments, manufactured runs when it had opportunities, and held on for a nerve-racking 2-1 victory over visiting West Ranch in Friday’s CIF Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals.

South Hills pitcher Sterling Patick, who nearly threw a no-hitter in the opening game of the playoffs, was solid again, going six innings and allowing five hits before giving way to sophomore Joseph Moreno in the seventh, who sent the Huskies to the next round with a 1-2-3 inning to close it out.

South Hills (23-6), who are back in the semifinals for the first time since 2016, when it won the the last of its six championships, will host Calabasas in Tuesday’s semifinals. Calabasas advanced with a 3-1 win over Gahr.

“It was just a chess match on who was going to execute, and who was going to have the chance last,” South Hills coach Darren Murphy said. “It was one of those situations when you’re glad you’re the home team because you can breathe a little easier knowing you would get a last at bat, but luckily we didn’t need it.”

South Hills won a day when it only managed two hits off the combination of West Ranch pitchers Shane Buchbinder and Andrew Greenberg. Though Buchbinder started, Greenberg made an early appearance in the second inning after the Huskies managed to get runners on second and third with two outs.

South Hills catcher Malakai Pelayo, who has been battling shoulder injuries and has had a tough year offensively, came through in the bottom of the second, belting a two-out single that drove in Noah Malone for a 1-0 lead.

“It’s just being gritty this whole year and playing through pain,” Pelayo said. “I haven’t hit the ball as well as I wanted to this year, but coming to the CIF playoffs, it’s playing with a different attitude and making things happen.”

When Murphy talks about chess moves, it was his big decision in the fifth inning when West Ranch had runners on second and third with two outs to walk Wildcats No. 2 hitter Ty DePerno to load the bases for Aidan Buntich, who had doubled in his first at bat against he Huskies.

But it paid off, Patick got Buntich to ground out, getting out of a jam to maintain their one-run lead.

South Hills was able to double its lead in the fifth inning without a hit.

Paul Vasquez, who reached first after getting plunked in the hip, later scored to make it 2-0. When Noah Malone was thrown out on a grounder to short, West Hills tried getting Vasquez taking third on the play, but a wild throw allowed Vasquez to score.

West Ranch answered with two outs in the sixth.

Nolan Stoll singled up the middle to score Brett Potter, cutting the Huskies’ lead to 2-1.

That’s when it became nervous time for the Huskies and Murphy, who decided to give the ball to his sophomore lefty in Moreno to close it out.

In the Huskies’ second-round win over Charter Oak, Moreno came in and threw four no-hit innings, and he never let his teammates sweat with a quick seventh finish it.

“We did just enough,” Murphy said. “I can’t say enough about Sterling, he was tired in the fifth and all year he’s never said he’s tired and he said he was tired and still gave us two more.

“And then JoJo (Moreno), what a week that kid has had. He was demoted (from a starting spot) and then finds himself on the mound in the two biggest situations when the team needs him more than ever, and he comes through both times.”

For Patick, it’s been quite a playoff run too.

“It was a grind, it was a dogfight,” Patick said. “You have to give credit to West Ranch, they’re a great team and they came to play. It was just about bearing down and competing. It was a great win today.”

South Hills pitcher Sterling Patick after another big playoff performance in their 2-1 quarterfinal win over West Ranch. Patick went six innings, allowed five hits and got out of clutch situations.

— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) May 13, 2023

South Hills catcher Malaki Pelayo has gutted through shoulder pain, and delivered the Huskies’ only RBI in their 2-1 quarterfinal win.

— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) May 13, 2023

South Hills coach Darren Murphy talked about being two wins away from the school’s seventh CIF baseball title, and the big plays that made the difference in their 2-1 quarterfinal win

— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) May 13, 2023

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