GLENDALE — Before he stepped into the batter’s box, David Piedra realized that his team had yet to record a hit against the Burbank Angels.
With one big swing from the catcher on the Vaquero Cougars Major Baseball team, Piedra greatly changed things.
Piedra hit a grand slam and scored two runs Wednesday night to lift Vaquero to a 12-3 victory against Burbank in the title game of the Tri-Cities District 16 Tournament of Champions at Babe Herman Field.
With Burbank clinging to a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third, Piedra hit a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence to give Vaquero a 6-3 lead. Piedra finished the tournament with eight hits, but the grand slam proved to be the biggest in the tournament.
“I just wanted to step it up for the team,” said Piedra, who finished the contest with five runs batted in. “We needed some runs and I was able to provide it.
“I went up looking for a base hit and to drive in a couple of runs. We knew that leading by three runs wasn’t going to be enough and we got pumped and scored more runs. I’m proud that we were able to win it all.”
Burbank proved to be a stern test for Vaquero, which saw starting pitcher Orlando Diez strike out 12 in five innings. The Cougars posted a 5-1 win against the Angels in a winner’s-bracket contest Monday at Babe Herman Field, sending the Angels to an elimination game against the Burbank Cubs on Tuesday. The Angels responded with a 4-2 win against their city rivals.
Burbank Coach Fernando Reyna said the Angels tried to stay close Wednesday.
“Sometimes you just have to look at your opponent and tip your hat,” Reyna said. "[Piedra] hit a tough pitch, a pitcher’s pitch.
“Whatever the scoreboard says at the end, we live with it. We battled hard throughout the tournament and it took everything we had just to get here.”
Burbank took a 2-0 lead in the second on a run-scoring single by Jeremy Chung, followed by a run-scoring double by Dominic Wight. Vaquero tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the inning on a throwing error by the catcher on a double steal.
Ryan Reyna gave Burbank a 3-2 lead in the third with a run-scoring single.
After Piedra’s home run gave the Cougars a 6-3 lead, they scored five runs in the fourth to make it 11-3. Diez doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on an error by the center fielder on the play to make it 7-3 before Piedra walked with the bases loaded to extend the advantage to 8-3. Gaven Burciaga then came through with a bases-clearing double to make it 11-3.
Vaquero, which finished with four hits, closed out the scoring in the fifth on a fielder’s choice that scored Diez.
“The key to the game was being able to hit our pitches,” Vaquero Coach Mickey Moreno said. “We knew Burbank could hit the ball and we still needed to score some more runs.
“David was our MVP in this tournament. He hit a pitch that was hard to hit for that home run.”
Burbank collected four hits.