LOS ANGELES — West Ranch baseball was playing at a flashier venue than usual at University of Southern California’s Dedeaux Field on Monday. But the bigger park meant bigger plays from the Wildcats as they beat El Camino Real 7-1.
“We got to play at Pepperdine a couple weeks ago, but that wasn’t under the lights,” Wildcats pitcher Connor Harrison said. “I think under the lights really brings out the best in people.”
Harrison was one of three pitchers used against the Conquistadors (3-5-1 overall). He gave up three hits and recorded three strikeouts while allowing no runs in five innings. It was a breakthrough performance for the southpaw, who had a rocky start to Foothill League play two weeks ago.
“It boosted it a lot,” Harrison said of the effect the win had on his confidence after the game at USC. “I’ve been struggling with my command lately, so I think this game really helped me hone it back in and figure out how I can help this team moving forward.”
The senior had plenty of consistent run support from the offense. After a silent first two innings, the Wildcats (7-3 overall, 3-1 in Foothill League) scored in the third inning on a sacrifice bunt from Ryan Farr. The bunt earned Farr his first of three RBIs on the evening.
After Ryan Tucker drove in Garrett Monheim with a bunt in the fourth inning, Farr smacked a two-run double with Tucker and Nikko Clarke on base to put the Wildcats up 4-0.
“It’s kind of fun when you see a guy that hits a double, scores a couple runs and lays down a sac bunt,” said West Ranch coach Casey Burrill of Farr. “He’s the ultimate team player and he’s our best defender out there on the field and he’s just a real selfless player that wants his team to win and will do anything to make that happen.”
The Wildcats continued to manufacture runs in the fifth inning. Nicholas Perez came up with a big hit, crushing an RBI triple for a 5-0 lead over the Conquistadors. He then crossed home plate on a balk in the same inning.
“I thought at the plate we had a really good approach today,” Burrill said. “I thought we were really patient. I thought we found some fastballs to hit today. Not only did we have some big hits at some big times, but I thought we played some small ball real well.”
Tucker put in an inning of work in the sixth and allowed one run. Steven Hernandez hit an RBI double for El Camino Real’s only run of the day.
Tucker returned to the plate in the seventh inning and hit a sacrifice fly to just about bring the game to a close.
West Ranch worked well defensively, executing three double plays on groundouts in the game with Farr at shortstop, Clarke at second base and Tucker at first base all flowing.
“I think the big momentum plays in there are all those double plays,” Burrill said. “The double plays that were turned all came at really big times when we were in trouble and that really got us out of some jams. And kudos to our pitchers for throwing those ground balls and pitching to a good defense.”
The Wildcats have had several experiences at Dedeaux Field against the Conquistadors, but it’s still an exciting experience every time.
“I like it a lot, it’s pretty nice,” said Farr, who was playing his second game at USC. “It was a lot better than the first time. Just feeling more comfortable, more familiar with it, like settled down now, little older. It was fun.”
Burrill values the experience as well. He played for the Trojans in the early 90’s under Mike Gillespie, who originally offered up Dedeaux for a West Ranch game seven years ago.
“I told all my students today in class I get to go home today,” Burrill said. “They looked at me kind of funny. ‘What do you mean, don’t you usually go home?’ And I told them I was going down to USC for a baseball game and they all laughed and kind of understood.”
The Wildcats return to their home field at West Ranch High School on Wednesday as they resume Foothill League play against Canyon. Game time is 3:30 p.m.