Casa Grande High School's baseball Gauchos will not play Cardinal Newman again this season.
After five games with the dangerous Cardinals, Casa Grande finally rid themselves of their North Bay League foe, eliminating the Cardinals from the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs with a 9-3 win on the Casa Grande diamond last Friday.
Casa Grande advances to the playoff semifinals, hosting College Park (20-5-1) Wednesday in a 4 p.m. game on the Casa diamond.
The win was the fourth for Casa Grande over Cardinal Newman in the five tries. All three previous victories were by a single run. Last week's game may have been another single-run squeaker had the tires not gone flat on the Newman bus in the sixth inning. Until then, Casa was clinging to a 4-3 lead and was only in front because Gaucho sophomore Eric Parnow came throwing strikes out of the Casa Grande bullpen.
"Parnow threw the heck out of the ball," said Casa Grande coach Paul Maytorena.
The left-hander took over for Casa Grande starter Dominic Garihan in the fourth inning after Cardinal Newman had built a 3-1 lead. To that point, Newman had four hits and was continually threatening. The Cardinals might have had an even bigger advantage had Garihan not come up with a crucial strike out to leave two Cardinal Newman runners stranded in the third.
Mound life wasn't a stroll through the rose garden for Parnow. There were some thorns along the way.
In the fifth inning, after Casa Grande had rallied to go in front, 4-3, Cardinal Newman worked the bases loaded on a single, an infield error and an infield hit. Parnow came up with the biggest single pitch of the game when he threw a called third strike past Cardinal Newman lead-off hitter Jeff Robello to leave three more Cardinals frustrated.
The rest of the game was a breeze for the left-hander, who put Cardinal Newman down in order in the sixth, and allowed a harmless single in the seventh. By then, Casa Grande had enjoyed its big sixth inning, and Parnow finished off the Cardinals with his fourth and fifth strike outs.
Casa Grande had one of its most impressive hitting games of the season, collecting 12 hits off two of Cardinal Newman's top pitchers, James Proctor and Corey Hammel.
Casa Grande knocked Cardinal ace Proctor out of the game with a three-run rally in the fourth. Catcher Francis Christy delivered the KO blow, driving in the third run of the inning, and what would stand as the winning tally, with a sharp single to right field. It was the senior's second big hit of the game. He led off the first inning with a long double to right and scored on Anthony Bender's single up the middle.
Other key blows in the rally were a single by Iggy Llorence to get things started, a sacrifice fly to drive in a run by Casey Longaker and a big RBI single by pinch hitter Zack Shimmek.
Christy said it helped that Casa Grande hitters had faced Proctor in earlier games. "This was the third or fourth time we've seen him," he sad. "We've figure out not to hit his junk."
Casa Grande turned a spine-tingler into, if not a laughter, certainly a big-smile bringer with its sixth-inning rally. Cardinal Newman helped by twice botching bunt plays and getting no outs when Casa was trying to sacrifice, and the Gauchos hustled their way into a big inning. Casa Grande had five hits in the uprising, but three never left the infield. They all looked like line drives in the scorebook, and, more importantly, on the scoreboard.