MENIFEE ---- San Bernardino Cajon pitcher Danny Diaz confidently took the mound on Wednesday ---- despite his dubious 0-6 record.
He then proceeded to put up nothing but goose eggs.
Diaz tossed a complete-game, five-hitter, leading visiting Cajon to a 7-0 victory over Heritage in the wild card round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.
"He's much better than his record would suggest," said Cowboys coach Jon Austin after his team improved to 15-14. "He's the real deal."
The 6-foot-2, 150-pound left-hander entered the game with a 3.31 earned run average, and Austin said he had faced many potent offenses throughout the season.
He appeared in control from the outset.
"I was able to throw my two-seam fastball for a strike, and then I would just throw them off with the curveball, either in the dirt, or for a strike," said Diaz, who also chipped in with three singles and two runs scored from his leadoff spot in the batting order.
Diaz recorded seven strikeouts through four innings, and allowed five harmless singles.
"He just got in a groove early, and we just couldn't do anything with him," said Heritage coach Sean Miller.
Trailing 5-0 in the third, Heritage (15-10) had runners on first and second. But Cajon first baseman Ruben Rios crept behind Maurice McClellan, and Diaz whipped the ball to first to pick McClellan off and end the inning.
"I wasn't ready for it, to be honest," said McClellan, who singled and walked. "I never saw the first baseman coming in from behind."
Said Miller: "We were just trying to be aggressive, I think. We were down a few runs. (McClellan) was caught off guard. It was a good little back door play."
Patriots senior starter Dan Carroll gave up six hits and five runs in three innings. He allowed four runs on four hits in the top of the third.
"They were a good hitting team, and they were able to find spots in the outfield," said Carroll. "I wasn't hitting my spots in the right times that we needed."
Diaz singled and scored in the first. He also led off the third with a bad-hop single past shortstop Miguel Hernandez. Tyler Bahier followed with a double to left.
After a walk, Mike Trevino singled in a run. Two batters later, Cody Swanson doubled to right-center off Carroll, scoring two more runs.
The Cowboys added a run in the fourth on a towering home run to left by Bahier.
A throwing error by Rios helped Heritage load the bases with two outs in the sixth. But Diaz enticed first baseman Steven Gonzales to reach for a pitch, and he grounded out meekly to second to end the threat.
"His fastball was really good, and he was hiding it behind his back," McClellan said of Diaz. "He was a good pitcher."