The Los Angeles City Section Invitational Division baseball championship at Dodger Stadium Saturday, June 2nd, was a place for redemption for the Westchester High School Comets.
After missing out on the Western League title with a third place finish in the league, the Comets made up for it by capturing the City Section Invitational Division Championship with a 3-2 victory over Granada Hills High School.
While the Invitational Division crown may not have the same distinction as the City Section Championship Division title — won by Chatsworth High, 2-1, over Reseda Cleveland — Westchester (17-13-1) was able to cap its season with a playoff championship.
“The players are thrilled,” Westchester coach Ross Rosenfeld said of the Invitational title. “It’s not very often that you get to end the season with a victory in the playoffs, and it’s very gratifying.”
This season the Comets finished third in the league by one game to second-place Hamilton High School, but they were able to compete with the league’s top teams, including league champion Palisades High School, Rosenfeld said.
Westchester, which finished with a league record of 9-6, also faced challenging non-league opponents in the regular season, including city championship finalists Chatsworth and Cleveland, both ending in losses.
But Rosenfeld said the tough schedule helped prepare the Comets for the competition they faced in the playoffs.
“We kind of shifted into a different gear for the playoffs,” the coach said.
Westchester reached the Invitational title game after picking up three consecutive victories over Taft (6-3), Los Angeles (18-9) and Carson (6-5) high schools.
In the championship game against Granada Hills, Westchester jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning after RBIs (runs batted in) by Josh Fernandez and Darren Starks.
The Comets added another run by Starks to take a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning before Granada Hills was able to cut the deficit with two runs.
Rosenfeld attributed the Comets’ early advantage as a main factor in the victory.
“It’s such an advantage when you can get a lead in that kind of a game,” he said.
Comet starting pitcher Julio Baltadano provided early trouble for the Granada Hills offense, as he had a no-hitter for more than five innings.
Darrell Hudson was sent in to replace Baltadano and overcame late pressure by Granada Hills, including bases loaded situations in both the sixth and seventh innings, to help the Comets close out with the victory.
Although Westchester struggled with some inconsistency throughout the regular season, the Comets were able to turn things around and play their game in the championship part of the season, Rosenfeld said.
“We put it together at the end,” Rosenfeld said.