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Sultans make history
Sultana advances to quarters for first time
HESPERIA • Mike Ardito didn’t know what it was.
Jitters? Was he sick?
The Sultana senior pitcher was throwing up everything he ate, and it was the night before the biggest game of his high school career.
Having eaten just crackers to keep his stomach calm, Ardito still took the mound Tuesday.
He kept Sierra Vista hitters off balance with his knuckleball, helping the Sultans beat the Dons 10-5 in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division V playoffs to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
Sultana coach Dave Hill said after the game with a dumbfounded smile on his face that he didn’t know about Ardito’s condition.
Ardito allowed two runs on seven hits in 4 2-3 innings before he finally ran out of gas.
“Today we came into the game a little looser,” Hill said. “We were more focused but more loose and confident.”
Sierra Vista outhit Sultana 13-12, but the Sultans used timely hitting to produce more runs. And while they committed five errors on the day, they made key defensive plays when they needed them, Hill said.
Both teams struggled with the bright sun on defense, losing track of fly balls.
Robert Vindiola went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs for Sultana, hitting a three-run homer in the fourth. Senior catcher Sam Ward finished 3-for-3, and Kenny McMurray went 2-for-3 with three runs.
Sultana (16-8) took an early lead to give Ardito some cushion. In the first, McMurray led off with a double and scored when Marc Tomassi singled. Vindiola singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Grant Holden for a 2-0 lead.
The Sultans scored two more in the next frame. Andrew Wolf scored on a fielder’s choice and McMurray, who reached base on a single, came home on a wild pitch.
After Sierra Vista narrowed the gap by scoring one run apiece in the third and fourth, Sultana rallied to score five runs in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
With McMurray and Tomassi on base, Vindiola got into a 3-2 count and started fouling off Christian Huerta’s sliders, his go-to pitch.
Vindiola’s patience paid off as Huerta finally threw a fastball down the middle and Vindiola blasted it over the left field fence.
“We were pretty confident,” Vindiola said. “We have confidence in our defense and pitching. ... You could just tell the team is more focused than in the past.”
Senior Alexander Puente relieved Ardito in the fifth with runners on first and second and Sultana leading 9-2. He gave up a single to David Serrano to load the bases, but got through as he struck out Elias Novelo swinging, and Ward threw out a runner who had strayed too far from third when a pitch got away from him.
The Dons scored a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh, but Puente managed to finish off the game, enjoying a comfortable lead.
Sultana heads into Friday’s quarterfinals with a five-game winning streak as it takes on No. 1-seeded San Jacinto.
“We’ve been talking about getting the championship under our belt, and I think we’ve got a good chance,” Ardito said. “If we keep the drive that we had today, I think we have a good chance.”
S.V. 001 101 2 — 5 13 3
Sultana 220 501 x — 10 12 5
Salcedo, Huerta (2), Serrano (5) and Quiroz, Salcedo (N/A); Ardito, Puente (5) and Ward, Robillard (6). WP — Ardito. LP — Salcedo. 2B — Quiroz, Serrano (SV), McMurray (Su). 3B — Holden (Su). HR — Vindiola (Su).
Tomoya Shimura can be reached at email@example.com or 951-6281.