VISTA When Michael Benson banged an RBI single to center field to tie the game — and the Vista High outfielder overran the ball, allowing a go-ahead run to score for Rancho Buena Vista in the top of the seventh inning — Kellen Sheppard admitted, “I freaked out.”
With three outs still to get, the RBV right-hander said, “That’s not a good thing.”
“I had to go to the end of the dugout, sit and calm down,” Sheppard said. “I pitch a lot better when I’m calm. I don’t work well when I’m emotional.”
A calm and collected Sheppard got the last three outs as No. 6-seeded RBV upset No. 4 and crosstown rival Vista 2-1 on Elimination Saturday in the San Diego Section Open Division baseball playoffs.
RBV (15-17) will play at top-seeded Rancho Bernardo (28-4) on Tuesday and must beat the Broncos twice to advance to the championship game.
Vista (21-13) is eliminated.
Left-hander Marcus Reyes, who has been injured much of the season, drew the start for RBV and worked 5?1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits.
Sheppard, who will attend Point Loma Nazarene, worked out of a bases-leaded jam in the sixth to keep the Longhorns close, then got the final three outs to run his record to 7-6.
“The coaches told me to be ready to throw a couple of innings,” said Sheppard, who throw 70 pitches in a six-inning stint against Rancho Bernardo on Wednesday.
“So I was ready. And I felt good.”
He felt a lot better after Benson ripped a two-out, two-strike single on a change-up to center to score Aidan Stinnett. And when the center fielder overran the ball, Sheppard, who had walked, scored, too.
“I was sitting fastball and adjusted,” Benson said. “The ball was up a little bit. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger hit. I was pretty stoked.
“Winning this game, beating Vista means everything. Especially since they knocked us out last season.”
Vista and RBV split four games this season, but Vista beat RBV 1-0 last season in the section Division I title game.
“Every time we play Vista it’s a tight game,” said RBV coach Sheldon Watkins. “Vista’s really tough.”
Vista’s Marshall Veyveris, who won the championship game of the Lions Tournament and the title game of the North County Tournament, was one strike away from another big win.
“Marshall did a great job,” said Vista coach Rick Lepire. “He hung one pitch, and their guy barreled it to center field.
“Marshall deserved better, but we never got our offense going. We didn’t get many timely hits in the playoffs.
“We tried to hang on to a one-run lead, but just couldn’t do it.”