LA CRESCENTA — Having to rally all night, the Crescenta Valley Junior baseball All-Stars were one comeback short in Thursday evening’s Section 2 Tournament championship.
Host Encino held off a late surge and defeated Crescenta Valley, 5-3, at Dunsmore Park to win the tournament series and earn advancement to the Division III tournament at Tehachapi.
As for Crescenta Valley, the squad will have to be satisfied with Section 2 runner-up status and a District 16 crown in their pockets.
“It was a special group that I coached and I’m proud of them,” said Crescenta Valley Manager Bryan Rich, whose team won the first matchup between the squads, 9-3. “We fought until the end, but we ran into an Encino team that was good, really good.
“Maybe if a couple of things go differently it’s a different score, but I can’t be disappointed. This is baseball and a good team moved on.”
Crescenta Valley entered the seventh down, 5-2, and made its final charge by loading the bases on a hit batter (Justin Parrott), an error and an infield single from Michael Chung that loaded the bases with no outs and chased tiring Encino starting pitcher Cary Lucas.
A sacrifice fly from center fielder Troy Leef brought the District 16 representatives within 5-3, while leaving runners on the corners with one out.
Yet, the comeback was quickly put down by reliever Shawn Goosenberg, who registered two infield outs to end the game.
“Crescenta Valley is well-coached and is a very, very good team,” said Encino skipper Logan Landers, whose team had to defeat Crescenta Valley, 7-2, in eight innings on Wednesday to force Thursday’s winner-take-all contest. “I have trust in every one of our players out there and they came through.”
Crescenta Valley made its first impact in Thursday’s game in the top of the sixth inning.
The visitors trailed, 4-0, but launched a one-out rally with a walk to Leef, a single from Drew Atherton and a critical error when a ball hit to short by J.D. Schaffer was dropped on a tag of Leef, who was running toward third.
The error left the bases loaded and led to an unearned run when a sacrifice fly from Nick Tralongo snapped an eight-inning score drought that extended into Wednesday.
Down three, Crescenta Valley took advantage of Encino’s suddenly shaky defense when another infield error allowed Atherton to score and cut his squad’s deficit to 4-2.
Despite the defensive miscues behind him, Lucas (two runs on eight hits with three strikeouts), who didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, registered a strikeout looking to end the threat.
“He’s the only 13-year-old on our team,” Landers said. “He didn’t disappoint.”
The momentum from the strikeout, which drew a thunderous ovation from the Encino bench and fans, carried over into the bottom of the sixth as the home team added a run on three singles in taking a 5-2 advantage.
Encino scored the game’s first four runs and may have tallied more if not for the arm of center fielder Leef, who had two outfield assists.
Encino had two walks and two hits in the fourth, but only scored one run in taking a 4-0 lead on a run-scoring single from Goosenberg.
Goosenberg’s single off the center-field wall came with no outs and left the bases loaded.
Encino’s Harrison Bauer followed with a fly to Leef, who caught the ball and then fired a strike to the plate ahead of Max Garber for an out that helped end the threat.
The home team created some separation in the third inning when Encino sent eight batters to the plate and scored two runs thanks to three walks.
The big hit in the inning came from a red-hot Caleb Shulman (three RBIs), who roped a two-out, 0-1 pitch into center field for a single that plated Lucas and Josh Perlmutter, both who reached via walk.
Encino launched the first salvo in taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Encino should have scored more if not for Leef, who turned a leadoff single from Perlmutter into an outfield assist when the southpaw gunned out Perlmutter at second trying to extend his hit into a double.
The out proved crucial as No. 2 batter, Goosenberg, singled and then advanced to second on a walk to Bauer.
A wild pitch moved both base runners up a bag, which then allowed Goosenberg to score on a sacrifice fly to left from Shulman.
Crescenta Valley starting pitcher Luke Hempel stopped any further damage by inducing a groundout to second to end the inning and keep Encino’s lead at 1-0.