Woodcrest Christian’s Gamblin’ Man

RIVERSIDE (Calif.) – Is Woodcrest Christian coach Glenn Prater rolling the dice or taking calculated risks this postseason?

With games on the line, Prater has made managerial decisions — one in each of the Royals’ last two games – that can best be described as ‘venturesome’. These decisions also have led directly to the team’s berth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship game.

“I think a lot of coaches have the same philosophy as I do, that there is no tomorrow,” Prater said. “Sometimes the situation calls for something that’s out of the ordinary, and it just so happens that this year we have two of them.”

Woodcrest Christian (28-5 overall) has capitalized from both moves, advancing to play Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart (29-4) for a section title Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Sports Complex at UC Riverside.

Prater, winner of three section titles since 2000, made the decision when the Royals pulled off a two-out steal of home to tie the game in the seventh inning of a quarterfinal-round game at Santa Ynez they went on to win in 11 innings.

“Stealing home really isn’t a common occurrence in high school baseball but I felt like it gave us the best shot, and it worked out OK,” Prater said.

He then called for a suicide squeeze to score what-turned-out-to-be the game-winning run in a 2-1 win against Hemet Tahquitz in the semifinals.

“In the playoffs the time that you need it is now, and there is no tomorrow is you lose. The situation dictates that,” Prater said.

“We’re exciting to see what the championship game has for us,” sophomore Branden Boissiere said.

Boissiere, a member of Team USA’s Under-16s, hit .440 with a team-high 15 extra-base hits and 29 RBI in 28 games. He also was 4-1 with a 0.49 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 28-plus innings this season.

Freshman cleanup hitter Jordan Keller leads the team with a .476 average and 32 runs scored.

Cantwell-Sacred Heart’s coach, Larry Patino, has put together a winner in just three seasons on the job. Just 5-17-1 the season before the accomplished national travel ball coach was hired, the Cardinals are 63-28 since.

“It’s kind of a like a whole new program now,” Patino said. “This is really new for us.”

The Cardinals, Camino Real League champions, are led by bothers Zachary and Jared Thomas. Zachary Thomas, a sophomore, topped the Cardinals with a .443 batting average and 35 hits in 22 games. Freshman Jared Thomas hit .434 with a team-leading four home runs and 24 RBI in 25 games.

Prater, in his 25th season as Woodcrest Christian’s baseball coach, has managed hundreds of games during his career. He knows when to adjust the plan and/or the right time to make a move, but is willing to throw all of it out the window for a chance to win in the playoffs.

“When you’re in a one-game tournament, you lose one you go home,” Prater said. “It’s not like we can wait and do something later.”

PHOTO for The Press-Enterprise

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