LA CRESCENTA — A five-run top of the eighth inning not only secured the visiting Encino Little League Junior All-Star baseball team another chance in the Section 2 Tournament, but also simultaneously endangered the chances of host Crescenta Valley.
Encino forced a winner-take-all tournament finale Thursday at 7 p.m. at Dunsmore Park after defeating Crescenta Valley, 7-2, on Wednesday while also evening up action between the two teams.
District 16 champion Crescenta Valley placed the winning run in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but was unable to score the game-winner as the contest remained tied at 2.
Momentum finally swung to Encino, which loaded the bases with one out on a fielder’s choice, single and walk.
Encino then pushed across the game-winning score on walk to Cary Lucas, which signaled the beginning of the end as the District 40 champions retook the lead, 3-2.
A fly out was followed by a double from Shawn Goosenberg (four for five with three RBI and two runs), two walks and a run-scoring single from Caleb Shulman that resulted in a five-run inning and a 7-2 lead.
Encino’s victory avenges a 9-3 victory by Crescenta Valley on Saturday in the tournament’s opener.
Crescenta Valley initially tied the score at 2 in the fifth, but was denied taking the lead due to Encino’s defense.
With one out, Crescenta Valley’s Jamie Bleveans walked, while his pinch-runner, Dallas Kaauwai, advanced to second base on a wild pitch from Encino pitcher Sam Gilderman.
After an infield popup resulted in the inning’s second out, Crescenta Valley’s Michael Chung roped a single to left that outfielder Lucas corralled before Kaauwai reached third base.
Lucas started a 7-5-2 relay to the plate that beat Kaauwai.
Fortunately for Crescenta Valley, the ball popped out of the glove of catcher Harrison Bauer on a swipe tag, which allowed the scored to be tied at 2.
Crescenta Valley’s next batter, Troy Leef, then laced a ball into right field that skipped past the right fielder due to a tricky hop.
Yet, Encino right fielder Kris Galvan recovered and led a relay that resulted in a tag out at third of Leef, who was attempting to extend his double into a three-base hit. The out at the bag happened right before Chung crossed home plate, which nullified an additional run.
After threatening in the first two innings, Encino finally pushed across a run in each of the third and fourth innings to take a 2-1 lead.
Encino collected four hits in the fourth, but only scored one run due in part to an inning-starting single from Grant Berman that was chased by a 6-4-3 double play.
With two outs, Encino started its rally with three consecutive singles, with the last a run-scoring hit from Goosenberg that plated Max Garber with the go-ahead run.
An inning earlier, Goosenberg was in the action again when the shortstop singled and advanced to second on a walk to Bauer from Crescenta Valley pitcher Drew Atherton (two runs on eight hits in six innings with three strikeouts).
While Atherton registered a foul popout to first for out No. 2, Shulman put his team on the board with a double to left-center field that scored Goosenberg and moved Bauer to third.
Atherton recovered and escaped the jam when Encino’s next batter grounded out to short to end the inning.
Crescenta Valley opened the game’s scoring in the first inning behind a double from Lorenzo Respicio.
The leadoff batter advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Chung and scored on a one-out single to left from No. 3 batter Leef, which put the home team ahead, 1-0.
Leef stole second and advanced to third on a groundout, but was stranded in scoring position after Encino starting pitcher Gilderman (two run on six hits through seven innings) escaped any further damage by delivering an inning-ending punchout.
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.