Huntington Valley on brink of elimination after loss to Temple City National

The Huntington Valley Little League 12-and-under All-Stars suffered their first loss of the postseason Tuesday night at Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo.

Huntington Valley lost to Temple City National, 4-1 in seven innings, in a Southern California Divisional Tournament winner’s bracket semifinal game.

But don’t count the District 62 and Section 10 champions out yet. Coach Tony Armand certainly isn’t.

After the final pitch, Armand said he reminded his team that the Ocean View Little League team that became the 2011 Little League World Series champion suffered two losses along the way.

“They found a way to fight back,” Armand said. “They had their backs against the wall, and we’re going to use that as inspiration. You know, it’s a tough run now. We have to win five games in five days, which is obviously a pretty big challenge. But if there’s a team that can do it, I feel like it is us. We’ve got a lot of pitching depth.”

Huntington Valley will play Golden Hill Little League of Fullerton in an elimination game Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Armand’s squad has the same kind of aspirations as that Ocean View championship team, and things looked good for most of Tuesday’s game. Huntington Valley, the designated home team, took a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning.

Noah Stockman led off the bottom of the second inning with a single, then moved to second on a wild pitch. After Brad Morlett’s ground out moved Stockman to third, he came home on a two-out infield single by Slater Vaughan.

Pitchers Morlett, Stockman and Gavin Pacheco kept Temple City National off the scoreboard until the sixth, when Armand brought in hard-throwing Tony Martinez to close out the game.

But Temple City National, the Section 3 champion, rallied. Daniel Ruiz led off and hit a full-count double to left. After Ryland Duson’s infield single, Huntington Valley walked Jaykob Duhamel to load the bases.

Nathan Mena followed with a chopper to shortstop, but the throw home was late, and the game was tied. From there, however, Martinez showed impressive resolve. He struck out the next hree batters — all swinging — to leave the bases loaded and preserve the tie score.

“He’s been a little under the weather, so that’s why we hadn’t used him,” Armand said. “But look, I’d do it again. We’re up 1-0 in the sixth, he’s an electric pitcher and he’s done it for us all year. You know, hat’s off to them for scratching it out there. Tony did a great job with no outs, bases loaded, striking three guys out in a row to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win it.”

Huntington Valley went down in order, though, in the bottom of the sixth before Temple City National scored three more runs in the top of the seventh. Matteo Estrada had the big hit, a two-out single to left to score two.

Huntington Valley threatened in the bottom of the seventh. Stockman stroked a one-out single to deep center, and with two outs, Pacheco singled to right. Temple City National intentionally walked Vaughan to load the bases, and Huntington Valley brought the potential game-winning run to the plate.

But Ruiz, the Temple City National reliever, got a strikeout to end the game.

“We just didn’t hit today, and that’s not like us,” Armand said. “We were just off a little bit. In this run so far, we’ve had one other game where we didn’t hit, and we found a way to win that 2-1. I think it was their pitchers. They just kept us off-balance enough.”

Twitter: @mjszabo