Across Southern California, a heatwave brought oppressive temperatures.
Some locations, including Cypress, cancelled youth baseball activities on Friday due to the inhospitable conditions.
Whether it was for the love of the game or out of desperation to avoid having to play a doubleheader on this hot weekend, baseball games were played on Friday at Del Obispo Community Park in Dana Point.
A light breeze provided little relief to players with a game-time temperature of 102 degrees, and any miscue in the field became compounded.
Fountain Valley fell behind early, and West Garden Grove put on a display of power late to win 12-2 in the main draw of the PONY Bronco 12-and-under All-Stars Section tournament.
Two early errors in the infield led to long innings for Fountain Valley starter Noah Villa. He managed to limit the damage to two runs in the first inning.
Villa would not be as fortunate in the second. The only out he recorded came after Quinn Hartman had a ground ball roll up his arm and into shallow right field. Shortstop Fabrizio Ratinoff followed the play.
As Thomas Sirois rounded third base and headed for home, Ratinoff showed off his arm strength to get the ball to his catcher, Brayden McGee, who applied the tag before Sirois could get a hand on the plate.
Villa walked the next two batters, and James Barajas drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single to chase the Fountain Valley starter from the game.
Damian Felix greeted reliever Jonathan Penor with a two-run single of his own, capping a five-run second inning for West Garden Grove.
“We came out and made errors,” Fountain Valley coach Jerry Quenzler said. “When you make errors on a hot day like this and it gets to long innings, and it gets to long innings at this age, they lose focus and it snowballs.”
Barajas and Felix were just getting started with the bats. In the fourth, Barajas sent a solo home run over the fence in left field. There were no cheap home runs on this field, as the fence did not provide opportunities to rob home runs.
“They just pitched it inside both times, so I knew that he was going to make a mistake, so I just pounced on that mistake,” Barajas said.
The next inning, Penor recorded two quick outs, but the final out proved elusive. Wyatt Nichols started a two-out rally with a double. Then Troy Atkins reached on an infield single.
Barajas was scheduled to be the next batter, but Fountain Valley opted to intentionally walk him to load the bases.
West Garden Grove held an 8-2 lead, meaning that the game could be clinched via the mercy-rule if the run at the plate came around to score.
It happened when Felix jumped on a fastball, driving it over the left-field fence for a game-ending grand slam. Felix’s smile grew wider as he circled the bases, and he was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
“I was trying to kill it the first pitch, and then I didn’t know that I was going to hit it over,” Felix said. “I thought that it was just going to hit the fence, and it was only going to score one person.
“I was just really excited. I just can’t talk. That’s how excited I am.”
Barajas earned the complete-game victory. He threw five innings, allowing four hits and striking out six. He exhibited a diving breaking pitch that accounted for several swings and misses.
“I’ve been practicing that a lot,” Barajas said. “My grandpa actually taught me how to throw the knuckle-curve.”
Hartman had two hits for Fountain Valley. McGee had a hit, a walk and a run batted in. Maysen Navarro contributed the other hit.
West Garden Grove advanced to the sectional championship game against St. Hedwig on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Fountain Valley will face the winner of Olive and Irvine B on Saturday at 3 p.m. The winner of that game will play on Sunday at 3 p.m. for a chance to take second place in the sectional and earn a trip to the regional tournament.