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Slump ends, celebration begins

05/31/2013, 10:30pm PDT
By John Maffei

Grossmont's struggling first baseman strokes key double to help clinch championship.


Grossmont catcher Hunter Stratton tags out Mira Mesa’s Joey Portugal in the fifth. The Hillers won the title after going 8-22 last season.

Tyler Gardetto has been struggling at the plate in the playoffs.

So Grossmont High’s senior first baseman put in extra time working on his batting stroke.

Hard work paid off Friday night as Gardetto delivered a base-loaded, fourth-inning double, driving in three runs as the Foothillers beat Mesa Mesa 5-2 in the San Diego Section Division I baseball championship before an estimated crowd of 1,400 at USD’s 1,750-seat Fowler Park.

“I was just trying to relax and have some fun,” Gardetto said. “The first pitch in that at-bat was a tailing fastball for a strike. So I figured I’d get it again. I did, and I hammered it. The feeling was indescribable.”

Mira Mesa (21-15), seeded No. 9, struck first, scoring a run in the third on singles by Michael Bingham and Trey Lomax and Matt Reitano’s sacrifice fly.

The Marauders, however, left runners on second and third.

“We had the momentum and it just got away from us,” said Mira Mesa coach Ben Rosenthal. “That’s what baseball is. One bad two-minute stretch and the horse was bucked.”

Grossmont (26-8), seeded second, struck back in the fourth when Nico Maida and Brett Stone started the inning with line singles to left.

Hunter Stratton followed with a booming double off the right-field fence, chasing home Maida. Payton Lindsay was walked intentionally to load the bases and Derek Rustich was hit by a pitch to force in a run.

Gardetto followed with a double, driving in three runs.

Danny Rolf singled, sending Gardetto to third. Alex Marlay lined into a double play and Noah Buchanan grounded out to end the inning, but the Foothillers had struck for five runs.

“Our M.O. all season has been to score runs in bunches,” said Grossmont coach Chad Williams. “And we did it again. Stratton’s hit was big, but Gardetto’s was huge. He’d been struggling, and he kept working. This couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid.”

Mira Mesa got one of the runs back in the sixth when Tristan Sizik walked and Bingham doubled to the wall in right.

The threat ended there, however, when Lomax’s bid for extra bases was tracked down by Rolf in right field.

Grossmont starting pitcher Brandon Weed gave Grossmont exactly what Williams was looking for — five solid innings.

“My goal was at least five innings,” Weed said. “My curve wasn’t there tonight, so I had to rely on my fastball and cutter.

“It was kind of crazy in the first inning — big crowd, championship game, college field. It doesn’t get bigger than this, and I’m glad I was able to come through.”

This championship was the 10th for Grossmont, the first since 2010.

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