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Crescenta Valley Major All-Stars force if-necessary game for championship

SIERRA MADRE — It was enough that the Crescenta Valley Major Baseball All-Star team had to deal with the pressure of a must-win in the championship game of the Section 2 Tournament against Encino.

PHOTOS: Crescenta Valley vs. Encino Section 2 Major Little League championship

But the players also had to contend with controversy in the contest Tuesday night at Heasley Field in Sierra Madre.

Encino’s No. 1 pitcher began the game by hitting four of the first seven Crescenta Valley batters he faced — plunking two in the head and two in the back. After the umpires had the hurler removed from the mound, Encino protested and the contest was temporarily halted while a call to the Little League West Region office in San Bernardino was made. The protest was swiftly denied.

The game resumed and, immediately following the protest, the Crescenta Valley bats came alive, resulting in four home runs on the night. The offensive power surge, coupled with a fine pitching performance from starter Jade Low, propelled Crescenta Valley to a 14-3 victory.

The result was a rebound for Crescenta Valley, the District 16 champion, as it lost to Encino, the District 40, champion, 14-5, in the first round of the double-elimination tournament.

With both teams suffering one loss, they will meet in a winner-take-all game at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the Section 2 championship.

“We have a very talented team and the fact that we lost to them earlier really didn’t matter to our guys,” Crescenta Valley Manager Brett Ramaker said. “We got contributions from all 13 guys on the roster and they knew what they had to do in this game and they did it.”

Low started on the hill for Crescenta Valley and with the exception of one inning, pitched well. Low went 5 2/3 innings and had to leave the contest one out from finishing a complete game after reaching the Little League limit for pitches. He allowed three runs on six hits, struck out eight and walked none in an 87-pitch effort.

Crescenta Valley also hit the ball well. After belting four home runs the night before in a win against West Lancaster, the locals made it eight round-trippers in two games with four Tuesday. However, as all four homers were solo shots Monday, Crescenta Valley had three three-run shots and a two-run blast against Encino.

Accounting for two homers was third baseman Nico Khoury, who ended the night with eight runs batted in. Low contributed a three-run home run, as did center fielder Vincent Parrott (two for three with a double and four RBI).

“I was doing well in batting practice and I was hitting the ball pretty good,” Khoury said. “I just felt it this game. They were trying to throw me curve balls, but I was just looking for fastballs so I could drive it out.”

The controversy began in the first inning, as Encino starting pitcher Tyler Stromsborg hit three consecutive Crescenta Valley batters. That prompted a discussion between both teams’ managers and the game officials. Stromsborg was warned at that point.

Encino and Stromsborg were able to get out of the first inning with no runs allowed.

After striking out the first batter he faced in the second, Stromsborg hit Hunter Cueno and was removed from the game.

“At some point as a coach, if I have a pitcher like that who is throwing wild and hurting kids, I would have to take him out of the game,” Ramaker said. “I have a kid who is in a lot of pain after getting hit by one of those pitches. At that point you have to think as a coach that maybe I should pull the kid off of the mound. This is 12-year-old baseball, we’re not playing major leagues here.

“As a manager and a coach my first priority is the safety of my players. That always comes first.”

After Encino inserted a new pitcher, Crescenta Valley scored three runs on Parrott’s blast to left-center field.

Khoury’s three-run homer gave Crescenta Valley a 6-0 lead in the top of the third inning. However, Encino sliced the lead in half by pushing across three runs in its half of the third to trail by three, 6-3.

Low held Encino in check the rest of the way, keeping it from adding to its score. Crescenta Valley tacked on three runs in both the fourth and fifth innings and two in the sixth. It ended with 11 hits.

“This is the way that we can hit,” Ramaker said. “We can hit all the way through the lineup. Even the kids that come off the bench can hit it over the fence.”

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