It was a historic meeting Friday evening when the Burbank Rays battled the Burbank Orioles for the 2012 Tri-Cities Junior Baseball Tournament championship.
It was the first time in the 11-year history of the Burbank Little League that two of the division’s teams earned the right to play in the title contest.
The Rays took advantage of the opportunity, jumping out to an early lead and coasting to a 10-4 victory at Scholl Canyon Park.
With the Rays entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed against the No. 2 Orioles, they earned a place in the championship by winning 23 straight games after starting the season with a pair of losses. While many of the Rays players have been teammates for years, the Orioles have been together for just over three months.
The historic aspect of Friday’s matchup wasn’t lost on the teams’ players.
“It’s fun to be able to play in a championship like this against your friends,” said Rays right fielder Tanner Whitlock, who went three for three with a double, a walk, two runs batted in and two runs scored. “I go to school with a lot of their guys and some are on my summer league team.”
The Rays wasted little time touching up Orioles pitcher Mitchell Lefevre, as they pushed across four runs in the top of the first inning. However, the first-inning deficit wasn’t all Lefevre’s fault, as his defense committed two errors behind him that accounted for three of the four runs.
Whitlock and shortstop Mike Napoli led off the game with consecutive hits through the infield. Lefevre then hit catcher Fischer Cabot to load the bases and proceeded to hit third baseman Danny Porras for the first run of the contest. A subsequent error at third base plated another run and a throwing error at second scored two more.
“Any time you dig yourself a hole like that, especially against a team like the Rays, it’s going to be tough to battle back,” Orioles Manager Fernando Tostado said. “I think the errors really killed us. You can’t make those mistakes in a game like this.”
Connor Lockheimer was two for three with a RBI and Tony Argenziano scored twice for the Orioles.
The Orioles scored a run in their half of the second. However, the Rays responded with three more runs in the third to take a 7-1 advantage.
The Rays added three runs in the fourth and the Orioles had one in the third and two in the fourth.
Rays Manager Jim Noud said his team’s ability to jump out in front early did a lot for his players’ confidence.
“For a young team like ours, that was big,” Noud said. “It was also important because we really didn’t hit like we would have liked to. We usually hit a lot better than we did in this game.”
Starter Randy Catlett got the win on the mound for the Rays, giving up four runs and striking out four in four innings.