Kennedy baseball walks off in a wild 9-8 win over North Hollywood in the CIF Playoffs

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Trailing 8-7 to the North Hollywood Huskies, the Kennedy Cougars had their entire season hanging in the balance in the bottom of the 7th inning. Having already surrendered a seven run lead in the contest, the Cougars found themselves in a situation where they needed to dig deep to regain the momentum and keep their playoff hopes alive. With patience at the plate and smart hitting down the stretch, Kennedy loaded the bases with two hits and a walk. From there, junior first baseman Alexander Gomez tied the game at eight with his 4th RBI on the day. On the next at bat, sophomore Sebastian Castellanos secured the win as he walked in the final run to push the Cougars to a 9-8 win in an intense thriller.

The sixth-seeded Cougars hosted North Hollywood on Thursday May 18th, 2023 having closed the season strong winning four of their last five games, and winning ten consecutive games in league play. The Huskies had a 14-13 record on the season, but won seven of their last nine games to obtain the 11th seed in the CIF L.A. City Section Division I Playoffs. Senior Alonzo Munoz got the start for Kennedy against senior Matthew Acosta for North Hollywood. Munoz was able to hold the Huskie scoreless in the first two innings. His teammates returned the favor by adding a run in the top of the first inning to give the Cougars an early 1-0 lead.

The entire complexion of the game changed in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Kennedy quickly got going at the plate with a single from Castellanos and a double from senior outfielder Jared Aguilera. After senior shortstop Fernando Silva was hit by a pitch to load up the bases, sophomore outfielder Andrew Aguirre knocked in two more runs with a double. The Cougars were just getting started on the offensive end in the inning as senior second baseman Matthew Madrigal knocked in an additional run on the following at bat with a single. Down to their last out in the inning with the bases loaded after an additional walk, Gomez knocked in three runners with a double to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead.

Faced with the tall task of overcoming a 7-0 deficit, North Hollywood methodically chipped away at Kennedy’s lead starting in the top of the 3rd inning. After leading off the inning with a single, junior shortstop Diego Velazquez successfully stole 2nd base. Two of the next three batters for the Huskies walked to load the bases, allowing Acosta to knock in three runs with a base hit, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 7-3. He then proceeded to shut out Kennedy during the next four innings, striking out three batters in the process.

The game continued to stay at a 7-3 stalemate until the top of the 6th inning when the Huskies offense got hot at the plate. Senior outfielder Ulysses Sanchez started it off with a single to open the inning, followed by another single from sophomore second baseman Nick Park, the Huskies’ leader in batting average. Down to their last out, the Huskies never panicked, as junior outfielder Cristian Calderon brought Sanchez home with a single. Kennedy decided to make a pitching change after the Huskies loaded the bases with a walk, bringing sophomore Santiago Torres from the outfield to the mound. The Cougars were unable to stop the bleeding with the pitching change, as junior outfielder Elijah Gaytan brought Park home with a single. Acosta then proceeded to knock in his sixth run of the day with a clutch double to give the Huskies a 8-7 in an incredible comeback.

Trailing now in the last inning of their season, the Cougars faced their toughest challenge and needed to respond quickly. After Torres shut out the Huskies in the top of the 7th inning, Aguirre immediately got on base with a single. Junior third baseman Abel Castillo patiently drew a walk, which gave Torres an opportunity to load the bases with a single. With only one out on the inning, North Hollywood made a pitching change, subbing in sophomore Enoch Yi to get the last two outs. The pitching change was unable to stop momentum of the Cougars, as it resulted in the aforementioned heroics of Gomez and Castellanos.

Kennedy head coach Andy Rodriguez showed great appreciation for the way his team responded from adversity after giving up the lead. He stated “Anytime in the playoffs, you can find a way to win. I loved it! We gave up a 7-0 lead, but to come back, that’s what championship teams are made of.” Rodriguez was looking for his team to fight back in tough circumstances all season long, “It’s one of those things I think we lacked all year, having the resiliency to come back. Today we proved it in a big game, in a big way.” Kennedy will look to build off of this victory in the Quarterfinals, as they host Valley Mission League rival San Fernando on Saturday at 11:00 am.

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