GLENDALE — From fifth to first, the comeback story of the La Cañada Cardinals Babe Ruth baseball team was completed Saturday afternoon versus the Glendale-La Crescenta Trotta.
The Cardinals rallied from an early deficit to score seven of the final eight runs and win the first-ever combo Glendale/La Cañada Babe Ruth Tournament championship game, 11-6, at Stengel Field.
“It’s a great story for these kids,” Cardinals Coach Ken Kiessling said. “We didn’t do that well this season, but that’s because we were never a whole team.
“We were missing players who had other commitments and only played with a full team once. It’s nice to put this together.”
The Cardinals entered the five-team, double-elimination tournament as the fifth seed, but ended with a 4-0 mark.
La Cañada led, 8-6, after four innings and put itself in a comfortable position thanks to a two-run fifth inning.
Cardinals pitcher Conor McGrory (two for five with a double and three runs) led off the fifth with a double to left and scored when the next batter, Greg Pan, singled him in to give La Cañada a 9-6 advantage.
Pan (two runs) then scored two batters later on consecutive infield errors on a ball initially hit by Jared Linsel (three RBI), which bumped the visitor’s advantage to four runs.
The offense was enough for McGrory, who replaced starting pitcher John Paul Caire, in the third inning.
McGrory allowed one unearned run in three innings of relief, while allowing one hit and recording seven of nine outs via strikeouts.
McGrory turned the ball over to reliever Diego Avila, who entered in the sixth and tossed two scoreless innings to close out the game.
In between Avila’s pitching, the Cardinals added a run when Caire (three for four with two runs and two stolen bases) singled with one out in the seventh, stole second base and then scored on a single from Gavin Campbell, who was named team MVP after the contest.
“I knew we’d do well even after we fell behind in the first,” said Kiessling, a La Cañada resident. “This team is special, it was just a matter of getting everyone on the field.”
La Cañada seemed to start out on the right foot when the Cardinals plated three runs in the first, two coming on a two-out single from Linsel that brought home Campbell and McGrory.
Yet, Glendale countered with a four-run first in jumping ahead, 4-3.
After an outfield error allowed lead-off batter Mason Van Kempen (two for four with three runs and two stolen bases) to reach, Trotta responded with four consecutive singles from Mike Harmon, Luke Hunter, Mike Hancock and Nicholas Masumoto, which accounted for three runs. Glendale’s last run came on a groundout from Trent Lousararian.
La Cañada briefly tied the game at 4 in the top of the second on singles from Cam Melilo and Avila, only to watch Trotta again retake the lead, 5-4, in the bottom half of the inning on a double from Harmon (two for three with a double and two RBI) that scored Van Kempen.
La Cañada took the lead for good in the top of the third with four runs, two scoring via errors, one on a balk and a fourth run on a single from Harry Coleman as La Cañada jumped ahead, 8-5.
“We just made a few too many mistakes to win,” Trotta skipper Ray Masumoto said. “I thought we really tried and we wanted to win, but it didn’t happen. I’m still proud to have coached these boys. It was a lot of work, but worth it.”
Trotta, which added a run in the fourth on a wild pitch, finished off a 2-2 tournament run as the No. 2 seed.
As for Trotta and the Cardinals, while the team season is over, a few players were selected from the squads, as well as from the tournament’s three other teams – CV Tile, Red Sox and Crippen – to form the Babe Ruth 13-year-old All-Star Team coached by Juan Pablo Valdez.
The squad consists of CV Tile’s James Baek, Darian Jenks, Tyler Lobianco and Jerry Navarro, Crippen’s Hayden Byrnes, Nicholas Corsini, Xavier Dubon, Julius Orozco, Alex Rho and Nathan Silverstein, Trotta’s Matt Gokey, Lousararian, Masumoto and Van Kempen and the Red Sox’s Justin Knapp. The Cardinals, however, are a team that consists primarily of 14 year olds.
The 13-year-old team will compete in the state tournament to be hosted by La Crescenta Babe Ruth in mid-July, with an opportunity to advance to the regional tournament in Fowler.
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.