Crespi defeats El Dorado, takes Diamond Sports National Classic

For a championship baseball game, Thursday’s Diamond Sports National Classic finale couldn’t have produced a more dramatic ending.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 1-1 game, Jack Colick of Encino Crespi hit a shallow fly ball to center fielder Adam Velez of Placentia El Dorado.

Scott Heineman tagged at third base.

“I was going no matter what,” Heineman said.

The throw reached catcher Drew Luther on one hop, just before Heineman tried to slide into home plate.

“It was an anxious moment,” Heineman said. “I didn’t know whether to slide over him or around him.”

Luther couldn’t hold on to the ball, and Heineman touched home to give Crespi a 2-1 victory.

There are high school baseball programs that would be thrilled to have one good pitcher. Then there’s Crespi (15-3), which showed this week that it has at least six quality pitchers.

Yes, the cup runneth over. What other team could have won such a prestigious tournament without its ace making a single appearance?

Crespi pulled off the feat at Cal State Fullerton behind Chad Tobin (three innings), Ryan Brockett (four innings) and Josh Mason (two innings). Brockett was named the outstanding pitcher in the tournament and Mason was selected the most valuable player.

Oregon-bound Ryon Healy, who has a 13-0 record over the last two seasons, couldn’t pitch because of strained ligament in his forearm.

“You go with what you got,” Crespi Coach Scott Muckey said. “Without Healy, we thought we’d get bounced around a little bit.”

El Dorado was the biggest surprise of the tournament. The Golden Hawks came in with a 5-7 record and came out as a team of the future.

The Golden Hawks got a complete game from sophomore left-hander Cameron Yen in a 2-1 semifinal victory over Huntington Beach Edison. Then sophomore left-hander P.J. Conlon limited Crespi to one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. And freshman reliever Chris Rivera did a good imitation of baseball’s ultimate closer, Mariano Rivera, getting El Dorado out of jams in the sixth and seventh by producing double plays.

First baseman Brennan Fulkerson of El Dorado was named the tournament’s most outstanding hitter. It was the fifth time in 21 years that El Dorado has made it to the tournament final, but the Golden Hawks are 0-5.

There was no doubt that using wood bats had an effect on the tournament. There were only seven home runs in 32 games.

“I have so much more respect for major league players, seeing how hard it is to hit,” El Dorado reserve first baseman Braiden Adams said.

One player who flourished with wood bats was sophomore shortstop Rio Ruiz of La Puente Bishop Amat. He went six for 13 with two home runs in four games. He has committed to USC, but the pro scouts aren’t likely to let him set foot on USC’s campus.

“It felt better than aluminum,” said Ruiz, who’s scheduled to take over as Bishop Amat’s starting quarterback this fall. “My dad told me to relax and have fun.”

Ruiz isn’t just strong with the bat. He shook my hand so firmly that it almost hurt. Now, that’s a teenager leaving a lasting impression on and off the field.