After much debate--eight innings worth--the verdict is in: El Segundo is the Camino Real League baseball champ.
Pat Llamas' single over a drawn-in St. Bernard infield scored pinch-runner Rick Clark with the winning run as the Eagles defeated the Vikings, 6-5, and captured the league title Wednesday night at El Segundo.
The Eagles scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth after St. Bernard had jumped to a 5-3 lead in its half of the eighth.
The victory assures that El Segundo (21-5 overall and 12-1 in league) will enter the playoffs as the league's top seed. St. Bernard fell to 17-5 and 11-2 in league.
"We took a vote on the team on whether to be champs or co-champs and it came out 14-0 that we wanted to be outright champs," said El Segundo Coach John Stevenson.
The Eagles loaded the bases against pitcher Dan Melendez to start the inning on a walk, an error and a hit. Dan Manjarrez's single brought El Segundo to 5-4, and Chris Lane singled in a run to tie the game.
With the infield drawn in and the outfield shallow, Llamas, on an 0-2 pitch, poked a chopper over third base and into left, scoring Clark with the winning run.
"It's the best feeling I've had in my life," said Llamas, who had struck out twice against Melendez. "He had me the whole night, but that last pitch was right there."
St. Bernard scored twice in the top of the eighth to take the brief lead.
Clark, who improved to 9-0, was in control from the second until the eighth when he walked leadoff hitter Chris Richardson on four pitches. One out later, Sean Friedin reached on an error and pinchhitter Phil Ruhl singled home Richardson. Sean Dunbar's suicide squeeze plated Friedin, who had gone to third on Ruhl's hit.
But Melendez (9-2) and St. Bernard couldn't hold on, to the chagrin of Vikings Coach Bob Yarnell.
"I'm more disappointed that we couldn't hold onto a two-run lead," he said. "I'm sure we'll still be seeded pretty high, but we just didn't make the plays when we had to."
The game got off to a rocky start when both teams scored three runs in the first inning.
Clark retired the first two batters but walked Melendez intentionally and hit Al Ibarra with a pitch. Richardson poked a single to center that scored Melendez. Ibarra scored when center fielder Erik Evans bobbled the ball and Grant Hohman then singled home Richardson.
The Eagles tied the game in their half of the inning. Jeremy Carr was hit by a pitch to lead off and Evans grounded softly to second. Sean Dunbar fielded the ball cleanly, but Hohman dropped the relay and both runners were safe.
Garrett Quaintance singled home both runners and took second on the throw to the plate, which was too late to nail a sliding Evans.
After reaching third on a wild pitch, Quaintance scored on Ken Talanoa's fielder's choice.