The Petaluma Leghorns American Legion baseball team belted its way to two impressive wins in the California Baseball Championships being played at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville.
Petaluma plays Vista Murrieta from Southern California in a battle of unbeatens today at noon. If they win, the Leghorns will play for the state championship and the right to advance to regional competition at noon Tuesday. Should they lose today, the road gets long for the Petalumans, who must play again today at 3 p.m. and win twice on Tuesday to take the title.
Petaluma put itself into a good position for the title with two impressive wins over the weekend.
On Saturday, Brandon Hagerla gave up just two hits over five innings in beating Merced, 14-0, He walked none and struck out five. Jimmy Flatt and Nick Marks each pitched an inning as Hagerla left to save his arm for possible efforts later in the tournament. The game was called after seven innings by the 10-run rule.
All three pitchers benefited from a ball-tight infield of Weston Bryan at first base, Chase Stafford at second, RJ. Busse at third and Anthony Bender at shortstop. All are Casa Grande High graduates. The Leghorns had 11 hits in the game, with catcher Ryan Haug, a Rancho Cotate graduate, collecting three, including a pair of doubles, and Stafford two. He scored four runs. Bender walked four times and Scott Hilbert crashed a long home run over the left field fence.
Sunday, Petaluma slammed San Mateo, 10-4, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates.
Petaluma led, 10-0, after five innings, and seemed on the verge of enjoying another seven-inning game when a rare infield error allowed San Mateo to score four runs in the sixth inning and prolong the game.
Hilbert pitched five excellent innings, allowing just a single hit, before running into trouble in the sixth when San Mateo mingled three hits and a walk with the error for all its runs.
Flatt finished up, allowing just one hit over the final three innings.
The Leghorns complemented their usual fine infield play with several good catches from center fielder Charles Parnow and right fielder Ryan Walsh.
Petaluma had 11 hits in that game, but was frustrated late, collecting just one hit over its last three chances. Stafford, Busse, Bryan and Parnow each had two hits. Bryan was especially bat impressive, The left-side hitter, went opposite field for a double in the first inning and then pulled a shot deep down the right-field line for a triple in the fifth.