Those pesky demons tried to creep into Jim Livernois' head again; swirling around him as they did in those final, desperate moments on the mound last season.
But this time, Livernois promised himself he would shut them out. And he did--with some help.
Livernois survived a scare in the top of the seventh inning, holding on to pitch La Quinta to its first Southern Section Division III title with a 3-1 victory over West Torrance in front of 2,400 Saturday night at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Field.
West Torrance (25-7) loaded the bases against Livernois in the top of the seventh inning with two outs. But La Quinta center fielder Anibal Delacruz ended the game with a running catch of a line drive hit by Derek Nicholson to center. Delacruz caught the ball just in front of the 400-foot sign, sparking La Quinta's celebration.
Last season, Livernois entered the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead against Tustin in the Division III title game. But Tustin rallied against Livernois for a 3-2 victory.
That was then. This is now.
"I didn't let myself think about anything from last year," Livernois said. "I knew I had to stay focused to get that out. Anibal made a great catch. It was just super."
That description sums up Livernois' career at La Quinta, too.
With his complete-game victory, Livernois--The Times Orange County player of the year last season--ends his season 15-3. He finished his three-year varsity career with 39 victories, one short of the Orange County record held by Jim Peterson of Sonora (70-73).
"Nobody ever had a doubt Jim would do it," catcher Joe Linck said. "We had the momentum and we had Jim. He showed a lot of character out there."
With that type of support from his teammates, it's no wonder La Quinta Coach Dave Demarest had no intention of removing Livernois when things got tight this time.
"The thing you have to understand about Jimmy is that he's been in five or six games like this during his career," said Demarest, whose team ends the season 28-3. "He might not have won all of them, but he knows what they're about.
"We were sticking with him, do or die."
The Aztecs enjoyed a two-run lead throughout the game, and they could have had more. La Quinta could not capitalize on three errors committed by the Warriors, including two in the first inning.
La Quinta went ahead, 3-1, in the bottom of the third when Delacruz walked and stole second with one out. He came home when the next batter, Linck, singled to center.
The Aztecs opened the scoring in the bottom of the second. Joel London hit a two-out double to left-center that drove in Livernois and Sean Carlson.
"I thought that was pretty important at the time because it put us ahead early and gave us confidence," London said. "But, as it turned out, we really needed it."
West Torrance cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the third. Nicholson's sacrifice fly to center with one out drove in Dustin Ciscel from third.
Ciscel opened the inning by hitting a line drive to left-center field. Aztec left fielder Charlie Tuggle dived for the ball, but it fell just below his glove and rolled to the outfield fence.
It was La Quinta's third appearance in a title game. This is the second time West Torrance has played for a championship.