It was unfortunate that Saturday’s Southern Section 1-A baseball final was decided on a botched fielding play.
For the first seven innings, Covina Gladstone and Baldwin Park high schools played near-flawless baseball. But Baldwin Park, after scoring two runs in the seventh to send the game into extra innings, unraveled on a rundown play in the top of the eighth to give Gladstone two runs and a 7-6 win at Dodger Stadium.
With Gladstone runners on second and third and one out, Fernando Garcia hit a ground ball toward center field. But Baldwin Park pitcher Scott Robles snared it, found Ron Cornejo too far off third base, and the rundown was on.
Cornejo kept the play going until his teammates running behind him made it to second and third, and then Baldwin Park committed its faux pas . Instead of chasing Cornejo back to third base, where he would have been out, the Braves allowed him to run toward the plate.
Even then, Baldwin Park had a shot at him, but Cornejo made a hook slide to evade catcher Amador Sanchez’s tag. One out later, the Braves gave up a second run on a wild pitch. Neither run would have scored had Cornejo been chased back to third.
“That’s something you work on over and over in practice,” Baldwin Park Coach Ron Mead said. “You can’t blow a rundown. Not in a game like this.”
Gladstone Coach Rich Remkus said: “You just don’t expect to get out of a rundown, much less score. Everybody needs luck, and that was what we needed then.”
An inning before, Remkus had been on the other side of the coin. After scoring two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 5-3 lead, Gladstone watched as Baldwin Park fashioned a rally that consisted of an infield single, a walk, a wild pitch, an error and a two-out single that tied the game.
In the bottom of the eighth, Baldwin Park almost came back to tie again, scoring one run and putting the tying run on second base. But winning pitcher Ramon Carlos (9-2) induced Carlos Ramirez to ground out to short to end the game.
Gladstone (20-7-1), which finished third in the Montview League and twice lost to Baldwin Park, won its first title since 1973, when Jack Clark--now of the St. Louis Cardinals--hit .517 to lead them to the title.
For Baldwin Park (17-7-2), it was another season of frustration. Three of the last four years, Baldwin Park has made it to the final against a Montview League team, only to lose each time.