LA CRESCENTA — Despite coming into the Tri-Cities District 16 Junior Baseball Tournament of Champions as the 11th seed, the Jewel City Bears are proving that designation somewhat meaningless, as they won their second game of the tournament and advanced to the semifinals with a 3-2 victory over the Burbank Indians on Wednesday at Dunsmore Park.
It was mostly offense that carried the Bears in their tournament opener on Saturday, as they won by mercy rule over the Tujunga Twins.
In the quarterfinal game versus the higher-seeded Indians on Wednesday, Jewel City didn’t need too much offense, as it received a great pitching performance from starter Eric Winner.
Winner lived up to his name, allowing just two hits before being pulled with one out in the seventh inning for JD Kiefer, who struck out the final two batters, putting the Bears one win away from the championship game on Sunday.
“Eric threw a magnificent game,” said Jewel City Coach Dave Miller, whose team will play either Crescenta Valley Kitchen or Foothill in the semifinals at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at Tujunga Little League Fields. “He threw 98 pitches, then JD came in, pitched well, got the last two outs and closed it out for us.”
Jewel City’s offense gave its starting pitcher the lead before he stepped on the mound. Fidel Hernandez tripled to lead off the game. The ball took a bad hop on the right fielder, turning a routine single into a runner on third with nobody out. Two batters later, No. 3 hitter Gabe Salazar singled him home to give Jewel City the 1-0 lead.
Winner and counterpart Randy Higgins dueled it out, combining to allow no more runs until the sixth inning, where both teams scored two runs apiece. Just as he scored the first run of the game, Hernandez also scored the second run of the game, this time on a sacrifice groundout. The Bears added one more run in the inning, which would prove crucial, as it served as the game-winner.
Winner pitched into trouble in the sixth inning, giving up two runs — the second of which came on a balk with a runner on third base. Burbank’s first run came on a groundout from Higgins that scored Javier Perez, who had reached third base on a double steal.
Winner would hold onto the lead, though, striking out Burbank’s Connor Lockheimer to end the rally and the inning.
“Their pitcher pitched a great game,” Indians Coach Tony Castiglioni said. “We didn’t strike out, though. We put the bat on the ball but the hits were all to them, and give them credit, they made plays.”
The Bears collected seven hits, while their pitching and defense held the Indians to two. The two teams combined to walk seven batters.