Timely hitting, pitching depth key Wildcats to 6-3 win over Titans
West Ranch High School baseball head coach Ryan Lindgreen came into the playoffs thinking that every pitcher would have to contribute to keep the Wildcats moving forward.
“That was our opening plan to start the playoffs was, ‘Hey, we have a lot of guys and everyone needs to be ready,’” Lindgreen said. “It’s all hands on deck, and our pitching staff has shown that.”
Beginning with junior Ben Cushnie, the Wildcats used four pitchers to keep the Tesoro bats mostly at bay in Tuesday’s CIF Southern Section Division 2 second-round matchup at West Ranch High School, with the Wildcats (22-7) moving on to the quarterfinals with the win over the Titans (21-9), 6-3.
West Ranch senior Ty DePerno continued his hot stretch to begin the playoffs. He followed up his two home runs in the Wildcats’ opener last week with three more hits on Tuesday to go along with two runs scored and an RBI.
The Navy commit blasted a two-out double in the sixth inning to drive home Mikey Murr after the Titans had scored three times in the top of the frame to cut their deficit to just one run. Junior Aidan Buntich followed that up with an RBI single to make it 6-3 heading to the final frame.
“There’s nothing more that we can ask from Ty,” Lindgreen said. “We expect him just to kind of keep preparing for the next game, but what he’s doing is kind of next-world stuff right now. So, can’t expect that every game but we definitely expect him to be prepared and help lead our offense. He’s definitely done that, and it’s been really fun to watch him hit.”
Wildcats senior Andrew Greenberg was called on in that seventh inning to shut the door on a Tesoro offense that simply would not stop fighting. Greenberg entered with two runners on and nobody out and didn’t flinch, inducing a strikeout looking, a pop fly to DePerno at catcher and a grounder back to the mound that Greenberg coolly flipped to Buntich at first base for the final out.
It was the type of moment that Greenberg said he’s been dreaming about his whole life.
“As a kid, you always dream of pitching in those big spots,” Greenberg said, “and just the coaches having confidence to go to me just gives me that extra boost.”
West Ranch will now go on the road for the first time this postseason, heading to South Hills (22-6) in West Covina in the section quarterfinals on Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 3:15 p.m. The Huskies topped Charter Oak on Tuesday, 8-2.
The Wildcats needed some time to get their offense into the swing of things on Tuesday, with sophomore Landon Hu kicking things off in the bottom of the third with a walk before Murr got on base via a bunt. Tesoro relief pitcher Caden Chergey got back-to-back punchouts to remove some of the potential damage, but West Ranch senior Matt Lloyd made that point moot, bringing in the first two runs of the game with a double.
“Going into that second at-bat, I just kind of changed my approach,” Lloyd said. “I told myself to just look for a fastball and drive it into the right centerfield gap. And I got a hanging breaking ball, and because I had that good approach, I was able to put a good barrel on it.”
Cushnie, a USC commit, seemed to thrive pitching with the lead his offense gave him, getting through his fourth and final inning in just seven pitches. He finished with four strikeouts while giving up three hits, all singles, and two walks.
“Ben has a lot of talent and it’s hard to square him up,” Lindgreen said. “When he’s in the zone with one pitch, we like our chances. If he’s in the zone with two pitches, it’s even better. So, Ben definitely got us off to a good start and let our offense get there.”
The Wildcats once again used small ball to scratch across their third and fourth runs. Senior Josef Brosche led off the fourth inning with a bunt single before Hu drove him in with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
In the fifth, it was DePerno once again leading the charge with a leadoff single. Buntich followed with the first of his two singles on the day before senior Bret Potter drove in DePerno with a bunt.
Lindgreen was pleased with the way his team was executing at the plate, doing the little things to help everyone else succeed and put runs on the board.
“You don’t get very many scoring chances in the playoffs,” Lindgreen said. “And so when you can create a scoring chance, you got to cash in, and that’s the name of the game there.”
Lindgreen has options for how his team can attack the Huskies. Cushnie should be eligible to pitch again on two days’ rest, having thrown just 53 pitches on Tuesday, though the Wildcats have another ace in junior Jackson Banuelos.
The future CSUN Matador helped the Wildcats get out of the sixth inning against Tesoro by inducing a ground out to Hu at second base against his only batter of the frame. The Titans had clawed back to 4-3 in the inning on an RBI single from senior Grant Grinstead and a ground-rule double from junior Tanner Tobias that brought in two runs.
Whichever pitcher gets the call on Friday, Banuelos or Cushnie, it’s a fair bet to think that Lindgreen will continue to rely on his depth to put his team in a position to win.
“Everyone pitched, so we’ll figure it out, make sure everyone feels healthy and good and we’ll start putting together our plans,” Lindgreen said.