By TOM RONCO
Special to this Newspaper
11:13 PM PDT, July 2, 2012
BRAWLEY — Victor Lugo’s walk-off two-run home run gave the Brawley All-Stars a come-from-behind 7-5 victory over El Centro in a Little League District 22’s 12-year-old All-Star Tournament opening round game here Monday night.
Brawley trailed 5-3 going into the bottom of the seventh and after two strike outs following a leadoff double, two El Centro errors allowed the tying runs to score and set up Lugo’s heroics.
“I’m happy with the comeback and I’m happy I won the coin toss (for home team),” said Brawley manager Victor Ortiz Sr. “It was important to get our leadoff hitter on and I’m glad that I brought Victor back in and that he hit the home run because he’s such a humble kid.”
It was Brawley’s Victor Ortiz Jr. who doubled on the first pitch from El Centro’s Robert Cortez.
“My coach told me to take the first curve I saw and I was thinking to try to go for a home run,” Ortiz said. “But he threw me a curve and I jumped on it.”
Two outs later, Carson Cooper, who had two hits in the game, sent a liner to right field that was misplayed allowing Ortiz to score.
Brawley’s Alex Hernandez followed with a routine ground ball was booted by El Centro allowing Cooper to tie the game.
Up stepped Lugo with Hernandez on third base and he launched a deep drive over the centerfield fence to end the game.
“Being tied did take some of the pressure off but I didn’t want to lose and I wanted to get a single and end the game,” Lugo said. “As soon as I hit it I thought it’s out and I enjoyed running the bases a lot.”
The home run came as a crushing blow to Cortez who had masterfully balanced his fastball and curve with the ever-present pitch count, the home run coming on the 80th pitch out of a possible 85.
“I was feeling good, I had confidence in both my pitches and I was trying to keep up with the pitch count so I could finish the game,” Cortez said.
“It was a great game but the errors killed us,” said El Centro manager Jose Cortez. “I told the team to relax in the sixth, that they had the lead, but they didn’t and it happens.”
Brawley will travel tonight to play Calipatria, who was awarded a first-round bye via the luck-of –the-draw when District 22 set up the tournament brackets, at 7:00 p.m.
El Centro will play tonight in a consolation bracket game in the double-elimination tournament against a to-be-determined opponent.