Calvary Chapel Can't Overcome Maranatha's Big First Inning : Division V: Sierra Madre team scores five runs to open game, and beats Eagles, 6-2, for the championship. It is first title-game appearance for both teams.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Calvary Chapel had the kind of half-inning that causes players and coaches to shake their heads and wonder how so much could go so wrong so soon.

Before the Eagles had their first at-bat, they were down five runs and went on to lose to Sierra Madre Maranatha, 6-2, in the Southern Section Division V title game Saturday at Blair Field in Long Beach.

It was the first title-game appearance for both teams.

Calvary Chapel, the third-place team from the Olympic League, finishes 20-9. Among the Eagles' four victories in the playoffs were upsets over top-seeded North Hills L.A. Baptist, 4-0, in the second round and No. 4 Big Bear, 3-2, in 10 innings Tuesday.

Maranatha finished second in the Alpha League and beat No. 3 Pasadena Poly, 8-1, in the quarterfinals and then No. 2 Phelan Serrano, 4-2, in the semifinal round Tuesday. The Minutemen end the season 21-4.

All the excitement of getting there for Calvary Chapel was quickly lost amid the horror that was the top of the first inning.

Simply put, Calvary Chapel starter Matt Herr (7-5) struggled to throw strikes. He walked the first four batters, including David Mack on four pitches, to force in the first run.

Herr started with another ball to the fifth batter in the lineup, Nathan Covey, then hit him to make it, 2-0.

At this point, all Calvary Chapel Coach Joe Walters could hope was that Herr would settle down. J.J. Sandkamp, the Eagles' ace, had already used his 10 innings for the week in the 3-2 victory over Big Bear.

Brian Hegarty followed Covey with a two-run single to center. Herr walked two more, including leadoff hitter Monty Curtis, to force in the fifth run.

Then senior Cody Hamilton replaced Herr and got the final out of the inning on a groundout.

Hamilton worked 6 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, an earned run, with three walks and three strikeouts.

"It's tough to lose like that," Walters said. "Basically, we gave them the game at the beginning."

Maranatha pitcher Jon Crabb had no problems finding the strike zone.

Crabb pitched a two-hitter with one strikeout and no walks. Both runs he gave up were unearned.

"That helped me so much," Crabb said of taking the mound with a five-run lead. "Because all I had to do was just throw strikes and the defense made the plays."

Crabb was in trouble only twice and each time it was because of the defense.

Calvary Chapel's Ryan Elliott reached base on an error with one out in the sixth. Ryan Blood flied out for the second out, bringing up Joe Jones. Jones started the game hitting .526.

He lined a single to right that led to two errors and a run. Blood had planned on stopping at second but went to third when the throw from right fielder Covey hit the fence behind third.

Elliott came home when catcher Mack couldn't handle the throw from third baseman Hegarty.

Jones continued to third and the Calvary fans finally had something to cheer about.

But the rally ended when Alex Okland grounded out on the next pitch to end the inning.

Calvary Chapel scored its other run in the second. Chance King reached second on a throwing error and scored on Gabe Gerhardt's single up the middle.

"This is the ultimate," Maranatha Coach Alan Karg said. "We had hoped for a big first inning to really put the pressure on (Calvary Chapel)."

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