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Fountain Valley PONY 12-and-under all-stars strike early to beat Irvine

Fountain Valley PONY 12-and-under all-stars strike early to beat Irvine
Maysen Navarro of the Fountain Valley PONY Baseball 12-and-under All-Star team gets an RBI single in the first inning against Irvine in the first inning of the Los Alamitos Youth Baseball All-Star Invitational game on Thursday. (Dan Watson)

Fountain Valley PONY Baseball 12-and-under All-Star catcher Joey Sangenito provided an unconventional, yet satisfying end to his team’s game against Irvine on Thursday evening.

Relief pitcher Jack Quenzler had just struck out an Irvine player on a pitch in the dirt, the final out of the seventh inning. All Sangenito had to do was throw to first base to end the game.

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Instead he threw to third, where Fountain Valley third baseman Eric Angeles provided the tag on Irvine’s Ethan Wheeler, who was trying to advance.

“That was a first for me,” Fountain Valley coach Alex Alvarado said. “I always go to first, but I guess [Sangenito] did the right thing.”

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Alvarado couldn’t complain after his team provided the final touches on a 4-2 victory over Irvine in the Bronco Gold division third-place game of the Los Alamitos Youth Baseball All-Star Invitational at the Joint Forces Training Base.

Fountain Valley, seeded fourth for the tournament, improved on that by one spot. Alvarado’s squad bounced back from a 12-1 loss to Los Alamitos in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Pitchers Dustin Stephens, Noah Villa and Quenzler combined to hold Irvine to just three hits in the game. Stephens, a left-hander, started and went three innings, allowing two runs on two hits. He said it felt good to pitch for the first time in the tournament, as he has been battling a lower back injury.

Villa pitched three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out two, before Quenzler closed out the game in the seventh. Wheeler started the inning with a single for Irvine and Javin Ugerio had a one-out walk, but Quenzler earned back-to-back strikeouts to end it.

After Irvine scored a run in the top of the first, Fountain Valley gave Stephens all the support he would need in the bottom of the frame. Quinn Hartman led off with a double down the third-base line, one of two doubles down the line in the game.

“It felt really amazing, hitting them right in the same spot,” said Hartman, who went three for three with two stolen bases. “[The pitches] were right down the middle. I was just trying to get on base.”

An out later, Stephens’ single to right scored Hartman. Stephens also went three for three in the game.

A single by Angeles put runners at the corners, before Jonathan Penor’s chopper in front of home plate scored Stephens. Maysen Navarro followed with a run-scoring single to left, and Fountain Valley had a 3-1 lead.

Irvine’s Kyeongmin Choi worked a one-out walk in the third and eventually scored on a two-out infield single by Rivin Ruhunage. But Fountain Valley would add an insurance run in the bottom of the inning. After Hartman again led off with a double, Stephens’ single to center brought him home.

Though Irvine had two players reach via infield error, Alvarado’s defense was mostly solid. Fifteen of Irvine’s 21 outs in the game were recorded via ground balls.

“It was a good team win, defense-wise,” Alvarado said. “The last couple of games we’ve been struggling on defense, so this game helped a lot with the kids’ confidence. They got over [Wednesday night’s loss]. Today was a new game.”

Quenzler added an infield single for Fountain Valley, which also got contributions from Brayden McGee and Morgan Behrens.

Alvarado said his team will play in the Xtreme Diamond Sports All-Star Extravaganza tournament on June 23-24, at a site to be determined. That’s the last tuneup before the PONY Bronco 12U district tournament, which begins July 5.

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