Southern Section 3-A Baseball Final : Romano Powers Rio Mesa to Its Second Straight Title

Times Staff Writer

By his own admission, Rio Mesa High’s Darren Romano is nothing more than a singles-and-doubles hitter.

“Singles usually--a lot more singles,” he said Saturday in the visitors’ clubhouse at Dodger Stadium.

So when Romano collected his first triple of the season, he couldn’t have done it at a more opportune time.

With the score tied in the top of the seventh inning, Romano tripled up the alley in right-center. Moments later, he came home with the decisive run as the Spartans defeated Western of Anaheim, 5-3, in the Southern Section 3-A championship baseball game.


After trailing at one point, 3-0, Rio Mesa rallied to win its second consecutive 3-A championship, becoming the first school since 1981 to repeat as champions. The Spartans won the 1-A title in 1980 and 1981.

“That’s as hard as I’ve swung all year,” said right fielder Romano, who came into the game with 18 hits in 54 at-bats.

Romano jumped on David Tellers’ first pitch of the inning, driving it just beyond the reach of a diving Shaun Frattone.

Earlier, center fielder Frattone had made a sensational catch in the alley in left to rob Rio Mesa’s Mike Runge.


That play raced through Romano’s mind on his last-inning drive.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to get it,’ ” he said.

But Frattone didn’t, and, on the next pitch, Runge doubled to left to score Romano. Art Espinoza then bunted back to Tellers, who threw the ball into left field.

Runge scored on the Pioneers’ third error of the game. Western (26-5) got a runner on base in the bottom of the seventh, but Phil Maquinalez induced David Brown to ground out to first baseman Sean Luft for the final out.


Maquinalez (10-2) went the last three innings for Rio Mesa (25-4), allowing only two hits. Tellers, who came out after Espinoza’s bunt, finished his three-year varsity career with a 28-5 record. The loss Saturday was his second in 13 decisions this season.

Brown began the game for Western by singling off Rio Mesa’s Scott Bush. After Paul Boucher sacrificed, Mark Tranberg hit a deep grounder to third, which Runge threw away, sending Brown to third. Brown continued home when Romano, backing up the play, threw the ball over catcher Rick Pena’s head.

Western got two more runs in the third on Frattone’s single, Brown’s triple and Boucher’s sacrifice fly.