SPEEDWAY -- Brian Dale slugged back-to-back two-run home runs and pitched three innings of scoreless relief to lead Cloverdale past Monrovia, 6-5, in nine innings Monday in the 2A baseball sectional semifinal at Speedway High.
Ethan Atwood delivered a game-winning inside-the-park solo home run in the ninth.
Monrovia pitcher Jeremy Grey, who struck out 19 in a complete-game effort, kept the ball outside the strike zone to the dangerous Dale.
The right-handed hitting Dale blasted a low curve ball deep over the 380-foot center field fence in the third inning to tie the game, 2-2. He belted a fast ball above the shoulders over the 340-foot left-field fence that may have landed in a different zip code to put Cloverdale on top, 4-2, in the fifth.
"Dale hit home runs on two pitches out of the strike zone," Monrovia coach Barry Neuman said. "The first was a curve down low and he went down and got it. The second was a fastball around his neck and he hit that one. Jeremy threw the ball where he wanted. He was trying to keep his pitches off the plate against Dale. You have to tip your hat to him."
Gray wasn't showing any signs of fatigue when Atwood came to the plate with two outs in the top of the ninth. The junior left-hander had struck out six straight.
The left-handed hitting Atwood hit a line drive into right-center field that went to the fence and he raced around the bases to score.
Dale relieved starting pitcher Justin Wilson to start the seventh. He allowed one hit, a single to Gray, and struck out five. Gray was caught stealing second on a perfect throw by catcher Austin Mannan to shortstop Wilson for the second out in the eighth. Dale faced the minimum of nine batters.
Wilson was outstanding in his six innings, allowing one earned run and seven hits. He struck out three, walked one and hit two batters.
Monrovia scored two runs in the first. Benefiel reached on an error and Gray hit an inside-the-park home run on a line drive to the right-centerfield fence.
The Bulldogs scored two runs to tie it, 4-4, in the bottom of the fifth, but it could have been worse.
Wilson walked Davis Noel with one out. Mannan picked off Noel with a throw to first baseman William Whittinger.
Robby Marley followed with a single to center and Benefiel drove him in with a triple to right-center. Gray was hit by a pitch. Noel's hard-hit one-hopper was scored an error, but it got Benefiel home. Wilson got Justin Gordon to pop out to end the inning.
Monrovia took a 5-4 lead on an error, a ground out and Tylor Steimel's RBI single in the sixth.
Cloverdale tied the game, 5-5, in the top of the seventh.
Mannan led off with a walk. Gray retired the next two hitters. Wilson delivered a single to center and an error allowed Mannan to score.
Gray allowed eight hits and walked five.
Class 2A Sectional
Cloverdale 002 020 101 -- 6 8 3
Monrovia 200 021 000 -- 5 8 1
Justin Wilson, Brian Dale (7) and Austin Mannan; Jeremy Gray and Davis Noel.
WP -- Dale (3 IP, 1 hit, no runs, 5 strikeouts). LP -- Gray (9 IP, 8 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned runs, 19 strikeouts, 5 walks, 1 wild pitch).
HR -- C--Dale one on in third; Dale one on in sixth; Ethan Atwood none on in the ninth; M--Gray one on in first.. 3B: M--Grant Benefiel. 1B: C--Wilson 2, Atwood, Cody Carter, Trevor Lockwood; M--Davis, Robby Marley, Benefiel, Gray, Tylor Steimel.
RBI -- C--Dale 4, Atwood; M--Gray 2, Benefiel, Steimel.