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Birmingham holds off Chatsworth to win Division I baseball title

Eric Sondheimer
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The Birmingham High baseball coach was winded by so many sprints to the mound trying to keep his pitcher composed. The pitcher was cramping under the hot summer sun at Dodger Stadium, insisting he wasn’t coming out. The fans were getting nervous, particularly the seniors who were supposed to head on a bus to Disneyland for grad night right afterward.

Yes, there was a lot of pressure Saturday afternoon on coach Matt Mowry and left-handed pitcher Eddie Rosales. The Patriots had somehow taken a three-run lead over top-seeded Chatsworth, everyone’s favorite to win the City Section Division I championship.

Suddenly, the Chancellors were in rally mold. When Josh Medina delivered a two-run, two-out double in the bottom of the seventh, Chatsworth had the tying run on second. Then Rosales got Alex Milone to fly out to end the game. Birmingham really did beat Chatsworth, 4-3. The Patriots celebrated by sending Rosales to the bottom of a dogpile

“I’m going to Disneyland and we’re City champs,” a smiling Rosales said.

How the Patriots were able to reverse fortunes from a month ago, when they lost to Chatsworth by scores of 16-0 and 7-1 in league play, reveals a lot about the changing fortunes in City Section baseball.

Rarely do City teams throw complete games at Dodger Stadium any more. The last was by San Fernando’s Armando Esparza in 2013. It’s all about having a strong relief pitcher to come in when the going gets tough.

And things were getting rough for Birmingham in the fourth inning of a 1-1 game. Mowry pulled starter Armando Yanez and replaced him with Rosales, who didn’t make it out of the first inning of the 16-0 loss in May. Rosales hit Zach Kaminkow with a pitch, loading the bases with none out.

“That’s the spot we could have folded,” Mowry said. “You give them that opportunity and they’ll blow you out of the water.”

Rosales got Miguel Marin to hit the ball into a 1-2-3 double play, and he ended the inning with a groundout. The frustration on the faces of Chatsworth players was visible.

Birmingham took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on a triple by Rosales and an infield single by Matt Garcia. Then Johnny Tincher had an RBI double in the sixth and Rosales an RBi single for a 4-1 lead.

Rosales ended up allowing one hit in four innings of relief. The game was briefly stopped so he could drink water to deal with his cramps.

Mowry said, “He was very, very close to coming out.”

It was a bitter defeat for Chatsworth, which is now 8-8 in championship games under coach Tom Meusborn. The Chancellors’ program has become so good that losses in the final truly hurt because of the program’s expectations.

“We just didn’t get it done,” Meusborn said. “We had a chance to get the lead. They fought hard and stayed in it.”

Division II championship game

Finn Starzyk, a 6-foot-6 junior pitcher for LACES, used to do diaper commercials when he was 4. Then there was a Best Buy commercial. His father, mother and older brother are actors. But he quickly decided enough.

"I wanted to get as far away as possible," he said.

He was quite content on Saturday morning to be pitching against Arleta at Dodger Stadium. He walked the first batter, got into an early jam, then ended up striking out seven and allowing three hits in 6 2/3 innings to help LACES defeat Arleta, 7-1.

"I realize we're playing at Dodger Stadium and that's something special, but it's still 60 feet, 6 inches to the mound," he said. "It's still 90-feet bases and we're just playing another baseball game. And after that first batter, I got the nerves out of my system and went out and pitched like I know how to do."

LACES helped him by scoring three runs in the first inning. Beckham Ballora had an RBI single and Jordan Durrell added a two-run double. Ballora finished with two hits and three RBI and Durrell also had two hits.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: latsondheimer

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