West Ranch catcher Ty DePerno opened up the playoffs with a pair of bangs on Friday.
The Wildcats won their CIF Division 2 playoff opener at home, 6-5, over the Royal Highlanders, behind the catcher’s three-hit day, with two home runs and 5 RBI, nearly outscoring the Royals himself.
For the two-spot hitter DePerno, the dingers aren’t much without his team piling on the baserunners before him.
“Top to bottom, we can hit,” DePerno said. “Those two home runs don’t really mean anything if our leadoff batter doesn’t get on base. They raised it up to five RBIs.
DePerno added the bulk of the scoring in the fourth to cap off the four-run inning. Senior Josef Brosche also went yard to lead off the Wildcats’ big inning.
The Wildcats (21-7) piled in eight hits and a handful of walks against UCI commit Trevor Hansen. The right-handed pitcher gave up all six runs in his five innings of work on the mound. Cats coach Ryan Lindgreen was impressed with his offense’s performance in the program’s first postseason win in four years.
“It’s funny because we kind of thought with him on the mound that maybe the first two runs would be the only ones we were gonna get,” Lindgreen said. “I was really proud of our offense to kind of keep staying with it. We want to score early and I didn’t expect it to be like that.
West Ranch flexed its pitching options and showcased five pitchers throughout the contest. All pitchers started well but Royal (18-6) kept finding life late in the early innings. The Highlanders sparked with two outs in each of the first four innings of play.
Royal then had its best inning in the top of the fifth, when the squad quickly loaded the bases on Foothill League Pitcher of the Year Jackson Banuelos. The reliever struck out his next two batters before the Cats ran into some trouble. Banuelos forced groundballs on his next two batters but some bad hops led to back-to-back infield errors that scored two runs for Royal. Banuelos got out of the jam and fanned his final batter.
Sophomore Hunter Manning closed out the game for West Ranch and punched its ticket to the second round of the playoffs. Manning earned the save after allowing just one hit, with two strikeouts in his two-inning close.
Manning wasn’t too nervous and was amped to get two innings of work in his first varsity playoff game.
“I felt kind of weirdly calm, especially in that last inning,” Manning said. “I was just reminding myself to take deep breaths and slow my heart rate down. I was just thinking about the seniors and all that kind of stuff. It’s definitely a big win for the whole team.”
The West Ranch pitchers collectively had a handful of walks but made plays when they needed to and combined for nine strikeouts.
The Wildcats now move on in the Division 2 bracket and will remain home for their matchup with the Tesoro Titans.
Tesoro is the reigning CIF and SoCal Regional champion and enters the matchup on a four-game win streak. Three of the Titans’ past four victories were extra-inning, one-run games, so the Cats may be in another tight one.
West Ranch enters the second-round matchup as winner of eight of its last nine, and the team is feeling confident.
“We feel great,” Lindgreen said. “In the playoffs, every game feels like its own season. Today was the round-one season and we get a chance to kind of take a breath and get ready for the round-two season.”
The Wildcats return home to host the Titans on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.
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