LONG BEACH—Nothing much seems to bother Peter Tago.
Like Harry Houdini escaping from a locked water tank, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Tago wriggled out of jam after jam on Tuesday at Blair Field, leading his Dana Hills High squad to a 5-3 win against El Dorado High of Yorba Linda in a CIF Southern Section semifinal playoff game.
With two outs in the sixth inning, the righthanded Tago—ranked 36th on BA's Top 200—paused for a moment on the mound. He dropped his head, pinned his chin to his chest, and appeared to be practicing a form of Zen meditation. Suddenly, Tago snapped to attention, went into his windup—and delivered a curveball that seemed to veer around the on-deck circle before dropping onto the outside corner at the knees. Strike three, inning over.
Tago pitched a seven-inning complete game. He allowed three runs on seven hits, walked two and struck out 13. After surrendering a run in the third, Tago again ran into trouble in the fifth. Two runs scored when Chris Rivera, El Dorado’s sensational freshman shortstop, flared a bloop double into left that gave the Golden Hawks a temporary 3-2 lead.
Unflustered, Tago took a deep breath—and proceeded to retire the next seven hitters in a row, four by strikeout. His teammates rallied to score three runs, a margin Tago refused to surrender over the last two stanzas. On Saturday at Lake Elsinore, DHHS will face Mater Dei High of Santa Ana in the CIF Southern Section Division One championship game.
Using just two pitches—a fastball and curve–Tago’s raw stuff was outstanding Tuesday, and he maintained his velocity into the final inning. His four-seamer sat between 91-94 mph, peaking early at 95 and 96. Tago’s vicious curve ranged from 75-77.
At times, Tago will struggle with consistency on the breaking ball. Late in Tuesday’s game, he got his hand well underneath a curve and threw a flat hanger. Tago appeared to remind himself to get on top of that pitch, nodding his head in agreement to a bit of self coaching.
Unless he appears in a brief closer’s role in Saturday’s championship game, Tuesday’s appearance was Tago’s last high school pitching stint. Based on his performance at Blair Field, at this late date Tago may have established himself as the top high school righthanded pitching prospect in Southern California for the 2010 draft