Dave Landaker’s seven-game hitting slump last about seven inning longer than he would have preferred.
Landaker, a junior shortstop at Royal High, entered play Saturday mired in a five-for-26 slump that left him wondering if he had lost his touch.
He need wonder no longer.
Landaker hit two home runs Saturday, each a game-winning shot, and the second was a two-run blast that helped Royal post a 6-2 win over Rio Mesa in the championship game of the Babe Herman tournament at Stengel Field in Glendale.
“I think I started out the season looking for the fence,” Landaker said. “But I just decided to level my swing out today, and also I was really pumped.”
So were the two fastballs that Landaker sent over the fence. The first was a three-run blast that helped Royal hand Canyon a 4-1 defeat in a semifinal game Saturday morning.
The second came with Royal trailing, 2-1, in the fifth inning in the final. With David Brown on first base, Landaker sent Jeff Howatt’s first pitch more than 375 feet and over the scoreboard in left-center field.
That gave Royal (9-0) a 3-2 lead, which was all the Highlanders needed with Jason Ignacio on the mound.
Ignacio (4-0), a senior right-hander, struck out seven and did not walk a batter in going the distance. He limited Rio Mesa (8-2) to its lowest output of the season.
“Rio Mesa is a good hitting ballclub, and Jason just went out and threw a good game,” Royal Coach Dan Maye said.
Royal added three insurance runs in the sixth.
Shane Slayton (three for three) led off with a single, was sacrificed to second and went to third on a passed ball. Curtis Anding walked and stole second, and Rio Mesa pitcher Frank Tinoco allowed both runners to score when he attempted to pick off Slayton at third and threw the ball down the left-field line.
After Royal loaded the bases, Richard Naranjo, the tournament’s most valuable player, hit a sacrifice fly that gave Royal a 6-2 lead. Naranjo was two for three and finished the tournament six for 12 with four doubles.
Rio Mesa had taken a 2-0 lead on two unearned runs in the second inning.
Victor Heredia reached on an error, Hernan Martinez singled, and both runners advanced on an errant pickoff attempt. Jamie Liddell followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Heredia and Angel Lopez’s single scored pinch-runner Jon Guillen from second.
Royal answered with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
Steve Talafuse reached second on a two-base error, went to third on a passed ball and scored on Slayton’s single.
“They jumped on us early, but we showed a lot of poise and we battled back,” Maye said.
Royal, off to its best start in school history, will meet cross-town rival Simi Valley (10-2) on Wednesday when Marmonte League play resumes.
“We’re trying to send a message that Royal High is not a pushover anymore,” Landaker said. “We just want a little respect.”