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Santana pitchers boost title hopes

05/08/2013, 10:26pm PDT
By Bill Dickens, Special to the U-T

Sultans battery keeps team in thick of Grossmont Valley League race.

Santana right-hander Ryan Browning didn’t allow a run in six-plus innings.

— Santana High’s battery put a charge in the Sultans on Wednesday afternoon.

Pitchers Ryan Browning and Alan Strong combined to fire a five-hitter as Santana edged host Monte Vista 1-0 to remain percentage points behind first-place El Capitan in the Grossmont Valley League.

Santana (13-11, 7-3) will host El Capitan (8-15, 6-2) on Friday.

“I told our kids before this game it’s basically a two-game season,” said Santana coach Tim Barry. “We had to have this one to make Friday’s game the biggest game of the year. Ultimately, that’s it for us.”

Browning pitched the first six innings for the Sultans but left the game with runners at first and second and nobody out in the seventh.

Enter Strong. Utilized as the Sultans’ designated hitter, he was summoned from the bullpen and proceeded to set the Monarchs down in succession — the last two on strikes.

“When I walked out to the mound I was thinking of it as a one-game season,” said Strong. “I knew our whole year came down to this situation and I knew one mistake could have all but ended our season.”

Strong didn’t hold anything back. He challenged the Monarchs with a steady diet of fastballs.

“He stayed with the heat and there’s no way those kids on the other team could catch up,” said Mathew Hudson, the Sultans’ catcher.

A sacrifice bunt by Ricky Dupree allowed Monte Vista (7-17, 4-5) to advance the tying run to third and the winning run to second in the final inning, but the Monarchs couldn’t capitalize.

“They had their infield in and all we needed was just a flare to the outfield, and we win the game,” said Monte Vista coach Matt Atkinson.

The other half of the Santana battery drove in the only run of the game. Hudson singled to right-center, scoring Tommy Logan (double) from second with two out in the fourth.

“I squared up on the ball and just tried to hit a line drive to the outfield,” Hudson said. “It was fun to catch today because Browning really baffled them with his change-up and then Strong came in and smoked ’em.”

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