By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
VENTURA – The mantra during these playoffs for the Temple City High School baseball team has been a succinct yet paramount message delivered after every game from Rams coach Barry Bacon.
“Dare to dream to win one more.”
And with that in mind, no need to reach out and hit the snooze button.
Temple City kept its dream alive with a 2-0 semifinal victory against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday afternoon to send the Rams to their first appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship game.
Temple City (24-3-1) will face Palm Desert in Saturday’s final at 7:30 p.m. at UC Riverside. Regardless of the outcome, this certainly has been the Rams’ best playoff run in school history. Temple City previously reached the semifinals in 2007 and 1989 when they lost to Bishop Amat and El Segundo, respectively.
The long trips and inclement weather they’ve encountered during these playoffs haven’t derailed the Rams, and they proved it again after their second consecutive two-hour plus road game.
“I asked them for three more days of this effort,” Bacon said. “I told them to dare to dream here (in Ventura) and one more time (on Saturday).”
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Corey Copping, the Oklahoma-bound senior, is putting the finishing touches on a masterful season. He gave up just five hits and struck out five while going the distance. He needed just 97 pitches (65 for strikes) and gave up no walks. Copping also helped his own cause by going 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
If there was ever a reason to question how it is the Rams have gotten this far one need only look at the style of play in the first inning alone.
Copping struck out the first batter and the defense behind him turned a double play when Kyle Starling caught the hard hopper, tagged first and threw to second for the double play.
The tone was set from that point on, as Copping and Starling then teamed up to pick off the leadoff runner in the second inning while Gabriel Juarez in the third inning charged a hard grounder at second to help shut down the side.Cameron Legrand turned a key double play in the fourth andCalvin Copping caught a hard fly out to right field from Jordan Ferris on a full countin the sixth inning with two runners on.
Starling in the seventh scooped a hard line drive down the first base line from Patrick Weigel on a 3-1 count to end the game.
“It’s such a blessing to coach this team,” Bacon said. “They just listen and apply what we tell them. That’s the kind of team they’ve been all year. That’s why we’re going to Riverside because they’re so coachable.”
That proved true in the third when the Rams scored the only run they would need. Juarez, a sophomore, connected on a 1-2 pitch for a single to left. Nicolas Starling bunted him to second and Kyle Starling’s grounder moved Juarez to third. Legrand, on an 0-2 pitch, connected for an RBI single to right.
“That’s something we’ve been preaching with two strikes stay inside the baseball,” said Bacon of Legarnd’s single.
Temple City’s small ball couldn’t have been more evident than in the fourth inning. Corey Copping doubled to left and Calvin Copping drew a five-pitch walk. A fielder’s choice moved Corey to third. With Ben Arrue at the plate, St. Bonaventure pitcher Josh Kubiske was called for a balk, driving in Corey for a 2-0 lead.
St. Bonaventure’s Raul Camacho Jr. went 3-for-3 with three singles, but was left stranded each time.
“(Copping’s) a Division I pitcher,” St. Bonaventure coach Raul Camacho Sr. said. “He kept the hits to one an inning and spaced them out. We had our guy at the plate (in the sixth) but Copping got out of it. They made the plays, and that’s whey they’re going to Riverside and we’re not. ”
The dream continues.