Both teams had chances in the final inning, and momentum seemed to swing on every pitch.
Costa Mesa American Little League Major Division Athletics coach Luis Vasquez could only smile after Tuesday’s District 62 tournament quarterfinal game against the Ocean View Little League Astros.
“That’s [Tournament of Champions],” Vasquez said. “It wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t close. That’s just the way it goes in TOC.”
The Athletics were certainly glad they had Brennan Borg on their team.
His two-run single in the fourth inning gave Costa Mesa American a two-run lead at its home field, and he came into the game in the bottom of the sixth to close out a 5-4 A’s victory.
Costa Mesa American advances to Thursday’s semifinal at home against either Huntington Valley or Fountain Valley. Huntington Valley and Fountain Valley play in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Borg pitched a two-hit shutout to lift the Athletics to the Costa Mesa Little League Major Division title two weeks ago, Vasquez said. He came in with a 5-3 lead Tuesday after Vasquez’s son, Isaiah, walked Ocean View’s Logan Stoddart to begin the bottom of the sixth.
That ended a stellar outing by Isaiah Vasquez. He allowed just one hit and struck out nine Ocean View batters in four innings of work, after the Astros took a 3-2 lead following the first inning.
“My fastball and my curveball were working pretty well today,” Vasquez said. “I couldn’t get my forkball for a strike, though.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Borg got a strikeout for the first out. But a single by Ocean View’s Amare Lesley put runners at the corners, and Arian Palm walked to load the bases.
Jack Pollack’s single to left cut the Ocean View deficit to 5-4. Next up was Fred Angiuli, who had crushed a two-run home run to center in the first inning. Ocean View coach John Pollack said it was Angiuli’s fourth home run of the season.
This time, Borg got Angiuli to fly out to right. Costa Mesa American right fielder Brady Tomko collided with second baseman Aiden Comte, but managed to hang on to the ball.
Borg then struck out the next batter on three pitches to end the game.
“I was very nervous and it was very stressful, especially after that one run got in,” Borg said. “But I knew that I could pull it off, me and my teammates.”
Michael Buley, Tomko and Tristan Ramos all had consecutive hits leading off the top of the first inning for Costa Mesa American, staking the designated visitors to a 2-0 lead. But Angiuli’s home run in the bottom of the frame tied the score, and Damitrius Garcia added a single that scored Calvin Beebe as the Astros took a 3-2 lead.
The A’s scored three unearned runs in the top of the fourth. Bennett Molica had a run-scoring single, and Borg’s single to left scored two more for the 5-3 advantage.
It looked like Costa Mesa American would add to the lead in the top of the sixth, when Max Chadwick walked to lead off, and Buley and Tomko added singles. But Jack Pollack would get out of the bases-loaded jam, setting the stage for the dramatics in the bottom of the inning. Palm threw out Chadwick at home plate, with catcher Dylan Daedelow applying the tag up the third-base line.
“I’m glad they battled back,” Ocean View coach John Pollack said. “We battled until the last out. That’s one of those games, there’s no loser in that game.”
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