COMPTON — The Arroyo Seco Saints baseball team is accustomed to playing in extra-inning games.
In the semifinals of the Palomino West Tournament on Monday, the Saints found themselves in their fourth extra-inning game in six postseason contests.
The Saints showed resiliency and a knack for staying calm in a tough situation, as they came back to post a 3-2 win in nine innings against the South Bay Legacy in a final-four game at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
The game held a double significance for the two teams. Not only did the winner earn a place in Tuesday's 7 p.m. championship game at the same venue against the OC Bolt or UYA, but it also secured a place in the Palomino World Series.
The World Series will take place at the MLB Urban Youth Academy beginning Thursday through Aug. 4.
"Getting back to the World Series for the third straight year is a huge accomplishment for this team," Saints Coach Aaron Milan said. "We knew winning this game was more important for us because it got us back to the World Series. It's always nice to be able to play for a championship, but we really had our sites set to getting back to the World Series."
That feat didn't come easily for the Saints, who had to battle back to win Monday's game against the Legacy from Northern California.
The Saints, featuring a handful of St. Francis High products and Glendale Community College players, benefited from a solid complete-game effort from starting pitcher Angel Lerma. The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits and struck out six.
Although Lerma experienced a few rough spots, Milan said there was no talk of removing the hurler.
"He did a great job for us. He was going to go all the way," Milan said. "We were watching his pitch count, not how many innings he was throwing. As long as his pitch count stayed in the 15-20 range each inning he was going to stay in there. His legs were strong, and 100 pitches…that's a good outing for him."
The Saints were three outs away from victory, leading, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. However, the South Bay squad pushed across the tying run to send the game to extra innings.
After neither team could score in the eighth, the Saints put together a rally in the ninth. The offensive charge was started by Steven Dubb, who opened by singling to right. After the next two batters flied out, Frankie Garriola came to the plate. The shortstop took a 2-0 count and drove a ball into the right-center field gap that scored Dubb from first.
Dubb, a Loyola High product, had a huge day at the plate despite suffering from a 102-degree temperature prior to the game. The second baseman was four for four with a walk, a run scored and a run batted in.
"I didn't even know if I was going to play right before the game," Dubb said. "I guess I was just relaxed or something at the plate, because I felt pretty comfortable.
"I just have to give a lot of credit to this team. We have been in a lot of close games and they have always battled. We have really come together as a team."
The Saints had trouble getting on the scoreboard in the early innings. Despite loading the bases in both the first and third innings — the first time with no outs — they couldn't bring home a run.
Legacy was able to tally the game's first run in the second inning after Tyler Bindi singled and scored on a one-out single to right-center by Mickey Meinhofer.
The Saints stranded eight runners in the first five innings before finally scoring two runs in the sixth. They finished leaving 12 on base.
"Bases loaded with less than two outs in the first few innings, we should have been able to score something from that," said Milan, a former St. Francis coach. "In those situations you just have to look for a ball you can drive in the air or drive hard through the middle."
In the sixth, St. Francis product Kevin Baker doubled to left field. He scored on a single to right by another St. Francis player, Andres Kim. Kim scored on a base hit through the right side by Dubb to give the Saints a 2-1 advantage.
Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.