Felicia goes yard

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Every kid who asked who hit a home run for the Costa Mesa National Little League team on Wednesday was surprised to hear one name.

Felicia Rios was the name.

"Felicia did?" asked one kid. "She hit it over the fence?"

Yes, a 12-year-old girl belted her first home run, over the left-field fence. The ball landed in one of the parking lots at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center and Sports Park.

When she homered, her older brother, Tyler Rios, jumped out of his seat in the stands and walked toward the right of the backstop. While his sister rounded the bases, he cheered the loudest.

The rest of the crowd joined Tyler, who wrapped up his sophomore baseball season at Estancia High. The fans gave the player with the longest hair in the game a standing ovation.

Felicia deserved it because she started a four-run rally in the top of the fifth inning. In an elimination game in the District 62 Majors Division tournament, Costa Mesa National was still alive, tied with Robinwood.

Costa Mesa National needed Felicia again in the sixth inning. Down three runs, Felicia walked toward the batter's box with a runner on first base and one out. A lady yelled, "Do it again!"

"One [home run] is rare," Tyler responded. "Two is rarer."

Hitting the ball out of the infield was hard to do against Robinwood reliever J.J. Muratore.

Muratore got one batter to pop up for an out before closing things out with back-to-back strikeouts, allowing Robinwood to hold on for an 8-5 victory. Robinwood earned another day in the double-elimination tournament.

Costa Mesa National was out after three games.

Before the game, Coach Francisco Rios told his players that this might be their last game as a Little Leaguer. They wanted to keep going.

The way in which the ballclub battled back made Francisco proud.

"We never gave up," he said. "We got some key hits. We got a couple of home runs. My daughter Felicia hit one. It's pretty nice to see a girl go yard here."

Felicia led off the fifth inning with a bang. Her team was in dire need of a spark.

Robinwood helped Costa Mesa National out by pulling starter Connor Doherty after four innings. Only one batter, Colin Gardner, hit Doherty hard.

In the fourth inning, Gardner blasted a solo home run way over the 200-foot sign in left field. Costa Mesa National trailed, 3-1, but in the bottom half of the inning, Robinwood brought across two runs to push its lead to four runs.

Felicia cut into the deficit by pulling a pitch to left field. The homer brought back memories for Tyler, who said he recorded his first home run while playing in a Costa Mesa National Little League All-Star game when he was 10.

Tyler is now 16, and he shows up to games to support Costa Mesa National.

Not only is his sister and father a part of the team, Tyler's grandfather Frank Rios is the first-base coach and his cousin Nick Torres plays catcher and pitches.

Torres, who relieved Gardner, in the fourth inning, tried to shut out Robinwood in the fifth. Muratore stood in the way.

With the bases loaded, Muratore drove in a run with a single to right field. Another run came around when Costa Mesa National threw the ball around.

"It's kind of heartbreaking at the end," Francisco said. "But if you look at the kids, they look like they're pretty happy. We have one more series left, the Mayor's Cup against [Costa Mesa] American League. We'll get together one more time [next month]."

When they do meet again, someone will no doubt bring up Felicia's first home run.

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