GLENDALE — Dario Quintana wasn’t looking to be too fancy with the bat with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.
The member of the Vaquero Cougars Major baseball team didn’t appear nervous, either.
Quintana registered a two-run groundball single into shallow center field with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the Cougars to a 6-5 victory against Foothill Nishi in an opening-round contest of the Knockout Tournament on Wednesday at Pacific Park.
“I tried to be aggressive and I just wanted to put the ball in play,” said Quintana, who was greeted by his teammates for a mini-celebration. “The ball got through and it’s a good feeling.
“I was just happy both of my teammates made it home.”
Vaquero will meet the Vaquero Dodgers or Tujunga Dodgers in a winner’s bracket contest at 5 p.m. Saturday at Tujunga Little League Fields. Nishi will take part in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tujunga against the loser of the aforementioned Dodgers showdown.
Nishi scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to grab a 5-3 advantage before the Cougars mounted their comeback. The first two Vaquero batters reached base on walks. Geo Hernandez then flied out to right and both runners tagged up following a nice catch.
Then confusion mounted.
Foothill Manager Erik Hovland said he thought at least the trailing runner left the base too early, resulting in a double play. However, the umpires ruled the runners advanced correctly.
“I really thought it was a double play,” Hovland said. “[The umpire] said both runners were safe and it’s a judgment call and I can’t complain about a judgment call.”
Quintana then recorded the winning hit.
Vaquero Coach Rick Freire said Quintana relished the clutch opportunity.
“He’s one of our most improved players,” Freire said. “When he hits the ball, he hits it.
“He came through when we needed him to.”
Nishi took a 4-3 lead in the seventh on a run-scoring triple by Michael Tichenor. Andy Hovland then had a run-scoring single to left to make it 5-3. Hovland finished with four singles.
The starting pitchers dominated through the first four innings. Vaquero pitcher Andres Rivera had eight strikeouts in the first four innings and 10 overall before being lifted in the fifth after exceeding the 85-pitch limit. Nishi starting pitcher Matt Vilches struck out eight in four innings of work.
Immediately after Rivera was removed with two outs and runners on first and second, Tichenor hit a three-run inside-the-park home run to left-center field to give Nishi a 3-2 lead. The Cougars tied in it their half of the fifth on an error by the first baseman.
“There was a lot of excitement and it was a very good game,” Freire said. “They have a good team over there.”
Erik Hovland said Foothill will look to regroup and focus on the positives.
“I liked that we battled hard the whole way through and we had some nice efforts by Michael and Andy,” Hovland said. “Our bats are going to have to break out and we need to get those big hits with runners in scoring position.”
Follow Charles Rich on Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich .