Conejo Moves to Semifinals
Unlike its opponent, the Conejo Valley baseball team didn’t absolutely need a victory here Tuesday morning to advance at the Little League World Series.
But losing seems to be the only part of the game Conejo Valley doesn’t understand and the boys from Thousand Oaks won again anyway.
Conejo Valley reeled off its 20th consecutive postseason victory, downing Lincoln, R.I., 3-1. That assured Conejo Valley the No. 1 spot in its pool and a day off today before playing Preston, Md., in a United States semifinal Thursday night.
“I think we’re having some fun right now,” Conejo Valley Manager Tom Ginther said.
To advance, Lincoln not only had to win but needed its winning margin to be at least six runs. Lincoln pitcher Chris Costantino drove in a run in the top of the first, giving his team a 1-0 lead and putting Conejo Valley behind for only the third time in postseason play.
Costantino then took the mound on two days’ rest, but fatigue and a sore back hindered him from the start and he threw seven consecutive balls to start the game.
He walked the leadoff batter in the second and, after two wild pitches, Tyler Karp scored on an infield single by James Brady, tying the score at 1-1.
“I’ve seen Chris go a whole season without walking a batter,” said Steve Rhault, one of Lincoln’s coaches. “You could just tell he wasn’t bending [on his delivery] and wasn’t getting his leg up high.”
Ginther had planned to start his No. 1 pitcher, Cody Thomson, then made a late-night decision to start Jordan Brower, saving Thomson for the semifinals. And once again, Conejo Valley pitching, which has given up only three runs in three games here, was dominant.
After giving up a leadoff single in the second inning, Brower retired 12 batters in succession, throwing 34 of 37 pitches for strikes, 16 straight in his last two innings.
Thomson relieved Brower in the sixth, threw 11 pitches and earned the save.
Conejo Valley scored unearned runs in the third and fifth, building a two-run lead.
Conejo Valley’s defense, which has given up only one unearned run in postseason play, was flawless for the second straight game.
“They don’t make mistakes,” Rhault said. “You can tell they’ve played together a long time.”