El Camino Real picks off wild  City baseball semifinal victory

El Camino Real picks off wild City baseball semifinal victory

In this strangest of high school sports seasons, it was only fitting that the bottom of the seventh inning of Wednesday’s City Section Open Division baseball semifinal game between El Camino Real and Reseda Cleveland produced the oddest of occurrences, leading to an 11-9 El Camino Real victory.

In a 7-7 game with one out, Cleveland had the bases loaded. El Camino Real coach Josh Lienhard guessed the Cavaliers would try a suicide squeeze to win. He called for a pitchout. The pinch runner was caught between home and third and tagged out. Moments later, shortstop Dominic Carnes flashed his glove, alerting pitcher Tyler Sileo for a pickoff attempt at second base. The play worked. Another pinch runner was tagged out.

“That was beautiful,” Leinhard said. “In baseball, you see something new all the time.”

“That was wild,” outfielder Ben Montag said.

The No. 11-seeded Conquistadores (14-16) used their momentum to score four runs in the eighth inning, then held on for a victory that sends them into Saturday’s Open Division championship game against host San Pedro, which eliminated three-time defending champion Lake Balboa Birmingham 7-0 behind pitcher Zach Geiss.

The No. 7-8-9 hitters in El Camino Real’s lineup — Joseph Schneider, Carnes and Montag — contributed nine hits. The Conquistadores opened a 7-1 lead in the fifth inning, only to see Cleveland score six runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie. Montag had a two-run double in the eighth, his fourth hit of the day.

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Montag is one of many unsung players for the Conquistadores. He played football for the first time this spring, causing him to come out late for baseball. He also has been home schooled for four years. He has helped the Conquistadores move into position to win the school’s 10th City title.

This final will be the first time since 1968 that the championship baseball game isn’t played at Dodger Stadium. COVID-19 restrictions and financial reasons have left the City Section using the higher seed home site.

“A CIF championship is a CIF championship,” said Carnes, who started at second base at Dodger Stadium in the 2018 City final.

San Pedro is the last non-San Fernando Valley team to win a City title in 1992. The Pirates received three hits and three RBIs from Dominic Porter in their win over Birmingham. Dylan Kordic also had three hits.

In the Southern Section Division 2 semifinal, Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills defeated Camarillo 3-1 and will face No. 1-seeded Thousand Oaks in Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game at Cal State Fullerton. Mason Molina came in with one out in the sixth inning and picked up the save.

Track

The City Section boys’ track and field championship was held Wednesday night at Birmingham. The big star was sophomore football standout Dijon Stanley of Granada Hills.

First he rallied the Highlanders’ 400-meter relay team from third to first in 42.83 seconds. Then, in his signature event, he won the 400 in 48.54. He also won the 200 in 22.13.

Stanley is Granada Hills’ All-City running back. He showed terrific acceleration in the last part of the 400, running away from competitors. He said he has several camps he’ll be attending this summer, including UCLA.

The only girl competing in the boys’ meet was LACES pole vaulter Valentina Amescua, who competed against Marshall’s Liam Carthy. She injured her ankle during warmups but was still able to clear 9-6 to win the girls’ title. Carthy won the boys pole vault at 10-6.

Junior Collin Harris of Dorsey won the long jump title at 23 feet 3/4 inch. Markus Mundy of Dorsey won the 800 in 2:01.43.