Andy Nieto, a former USC assistant who won his fourth Southern Section baseball championship on Friday coaching La Puente Bishop Amat at Dodger Stadium, told his team weeks ago when it was struggling, "Before we can right the boat, you have to make a commitment to go down with it. Then we'll find a way to right the ship."
Players rallied around each other, and that shared responsibility surfaced in the Lancers' 4-3 victory over Palm Desert in the Division 3 championship game.
Trailing 3-0 through five innings, Bishop Amat players still felt confident.
"There was really no point in the game where we thought we wouldn't be able to come back," catcher Michael Palos said.
The Lancers (21-11) scored a run in the fifth and three in the sixth to take the lead. There was an infield single by Christian Moya to start the sixth, a hit batter, a sacrifice and an RBI ground out by Scott Hurst. Then Palos delivered the RBI double, his second hit of the game, to tie the score. After an intentional walk to Sergio Robles, Bryan Menendez hit a pop-fly single to drive in the go-ahead run.
Hurst took the mound in the seventh and struck out the last two batters to start a joyous victory celebration.
Bishop Amat started the season 0-4 and had to rally several times in the playoffs to keep its season alive.
"Our guys are extremely resilient," Nieto said. "They never quit."
Palos, who is headed to Azusa Pacific, said, "It was all hands on deck. I was just trying to get up and help out the team. I was looking for the first good pitch to put a good swing and I got it."
Palm Desert (26-7) had won 16 consecutive games and had its ace, Andrew Bash, on the mound. Bash gave up six hits, struck out five and walked one.
Temecula Valley wins
With all nine starters back from a team that made it to Dodger Stadium but lost to Cypress in the 2013 Division 2 championship game, Temecula Valley was determined not to come up short this season. And the Golden Bears delivered.
They scored four runs in the first inning, taking advantage of two errors, and knocked off Aliso Niguel and standout pitcher Kyle Molnar, 5-3, in the Division 2 final.
The game ended with Aliso Niguel having runners at second and third and Jared Morton striking out Eric Wagaman for the final out.
"I'm feeling insane right now," said junior shortstop David Maldonado, who had two of his team's seven hits against Molnar.