Hamm cashes in to send Redondo Union to CIF Division 3 baseball semifinals
On a day when he didn’t have his best stuff, Redondo pitcher Cassius Hamm persevered and helped himself at the plate, accounting for all three runs in Redondo’s 3-2 victory in Friday’s CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinal at Gahr.
Hamm, a junior right-hander, went the distance, and his 129th pitch ended the game as the right-hander struck striking out Leotis Johnson III, with Jaime Estrada representing the tying run at second base.
Hamm drove in two runs in the first-inning with a single off Gahr starter Paul Versteeg (8-4) and scored the other in the sixth on a Cooper Gallion single off reliever George Castillo.
Redondo (21-12) was coming off a 6-4 home victory over second-seeded Bonita and faced its first road test against No. 8 Gahr (23-8-1). The win puts the Sea Hawks in a semifinal for the first time since 1988 when California State Player of the Year Scott Davison led Redondo.
Redondo will play at No. 6 Bishop Amat (19-11) on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. The winner advances to the championship game on Friday at 2 p.m. at Dodger Stadium and will face the winner between No. 1 Palm Desert and No. 4 Santa Monica.
Although Santa Monica lost to Peninsula 7-2 in the second round, Peninsula had to forfeit the game for holding illegal batting practice prior to the game.
The Sea Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Gahr when Duncan McKinnon led off with a base hit to center field. After a sacrifice bunt, Cain Castor was hit by a pitch, then a fielding error by the shortstop put runners on second and third.
With two outs, Hamm drove in both runs with a single to left field.
“I’ve been hitting pretty well recently,” Hamm said. “I got in the hole but battled through that. I saw my pitch and hit it. I knew two runs wouldn’t be enough. Run support has been a little bit of an issue when I’m pitching.”
Gahr (22-11-1) got within 2-1 in the second when David Balboa walked and Joe Dressel singled him home.
Redondo scored the eventual game-winning run in the top of the sixth inning when Hamm led off with a single to left-center field. Cole Henderson’s sacrifice bunt moved Hamm to second and Gallion lined a single to score Hamm.
“I was up there with two strikes so I tried to change my approach and get in a groove,” Gallion said. “He threw me a fastball low and inside and I hit it hard in play.”
Estrada doubled home Victor Salazar with two outs in the seventh to give the Gladiators a chance, but Hamm was able to finish what he started in style with the strikeout.
Hamm, who went 2 for 4 with two RBI, allowed two runs and six hits with four strikeouts.
Gahr threatened in the bottom of the sixth inning when Balboa walked and Jesus Salazar’s double put runners in scoring position. But Hamm fought through the jam forcing Dressel to pop out to third baseman Brady Dorn.
After Redondo center fielder Jason Clebowicz was left stranded after hitting a two-out double, Gahr began a late rally.
Victor Salazar Jr. hit a sizzling line drive to third base that went off Dorn’s glove. After a popup was recorded for the first out, Albert Avila grounded to shortstop who tried for a 5-4-1 double play but the throw to first was too late.
Avila advanced to second on a passed ball, bringing second baseman Jaime Estrada to the plate who roped a double into left center to pull the Gladiators to with one run.
“I didn’t have my best stuff but threw enough strikes to get the win,” Hamm said. “I was struggling with my control, walking more guys than normal. I was nervous with the tying run on base. I hadn’t been in that situation before but I knew I had the ability to get the out. I just needed to throw strikes.”
Redondo coach Jeff Baumback said he was proud of his players and how his senior pitcher fought through adversity.
“I liked the way he (Hamm) battled,” Baumback said. “He’s pitched better in the past. He was pitching behind in the count a lot. They were fouling off a lot of pitches so the pitch count began getting jacked up. It’s how you pitch when you don’t have your best stuff. We’ve been conservative with his pitch count all year so he’s strong at this point in the season. He gave up only two runs to a really good baseball team.
“We really have to focus harder now. It‘s so hard to get here and now have an opportunity to get to a final. We’re playing our best baseball of the year. I like our chances.”
In Division 4, two teams from the Pioneer League advanced to the semifinals with a chance to meet in the championship game.
Fifth-seeded Torrance (25-8) scored in the top of the seventh inning to eliminate third-seeded San Dimas 1-0 in a quarterfinal on Friday and will host No. 7 Laguna Beach (27-2) on Tuesday.
The championship game will be held Saturday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at UC Riverside.
Torrance senior Kyle Smith hurled the shutout allowing only two hits.
With one out in the seventh inning, Manny Olloque started the Tartar’s rally with a double. Billy Bryant came in to pinch-run for him and with two outs, Dominic Haynes hit a sharp grounder to the right of shortstop Jacob Castillo who couldn’t handle the ball, allowing Bryant to score.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 6 South Torrance (24-8) eliminated fourth-seeded Oaks Christian 3-1 on the road Friday behind a strong pitching performance by Matt Mogollon who threw a six-hitter with five strikeouts.
The Spartans will travel to face No. 8 California (23-5) on Tuesday.