By Stephen Ramirez
LOS ANGELES >> The California and La Canada high school baseball teams may have played in a big college stadium Wednesday, but it was littleball which proved to be the difference.And the pitching of sophomore Mike Gutierrez didn’t hurt the Condors, either.Gutierrez threw six shutout innings and Jordan Zuniga converted a squeeze punt to perfection to lead California to a 1-0 victory over the Spartans in a nonleague game at USC’s Dedeaux Field.Gilbert Lopez and Brandon Acosta also had hits for the Condors (5-2), who head into Del Rio League play after winning last week’s El Segundo Blue Division Tournament and beating a La Canada team that is expected to challenge for the Rio Hondo League crown.
Graham Massimino had two hits and Connor Buchanan gave up two hits and struck out two in six innings for the Spartans (4-3).
“It’s been our script all through the years: Pitching and defense,” California coach Tony Nieto said. “We got a great outing from our sophomore, Mike Gutierrez. He gutted it out. His pitch count went a little high, but he wanted to get that last out (in the sixth) and he said, ‘I got it, coach.’ We left him in there and he got a big strikeout for us.”
Zuniga then capped one of the Cal’s two scoring chances with his sacrifice bunt for a 1-0 lead in the fifth.
Niko De Lao led off with walk. Noah Nieto sacrificed him to second and De Lao stole third. He scored when Zungia converted with a bunt to the right, forcing Buchanan to get the out at first.
“No pressure,” Zuniga said. “We do it at practice every day. You just have to get it done for the team. I tried to put us on top, and I did.’
Gutierrez took care of the rest.
The sophomore gave up two hits during the first two innings, but then rebounded to retire eight consecutive batters. He gave up a one-out double to Massimino in the fifth, erasing the La Canada catcher with a pickoff.
La Canada also had runners on first and second in the sixth with one out. But Gutierrez ended the threat when Buchanan flied out to right field and then struck out Tyler Fierro.
“In those situations, I’m just trying to get a groundball,” said Gutierrez, who threw 95 pitches in six innings. “The defense was outstanding today. I was just trying to get a ground ball and get out of the inning.”
Anthony Salazar replaced Gutierrez in the seventh. Tristan Kalnins led off with a walk, but Salazar got the next three batters in the Condors’ annual game at Dedeaux Field.
“It’s an honor to pitch here,” Gutierrez said. “All the history that’s been here at USC. It’s just an honor.”