Genova helps All-Stars rally

PLACENTIA — Manager Denny Pender tries to refrain from having a 12-year-old go the distance on the mound in a game. Seven innings is a lot of work for a young arm.

He found it hard to pull Jake Genova in the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn.'s final Pony Bronco Southern California Central Region Tournament game on Tuesday.

The energy the kid showed Pender after each inning earned Genova more time against host Placentia A.

"They come back in the dugout fired up, almost like, 'Don't take me out coach. I can do this. I want this game,'" Pender said.

Genova started and closed things out for Newport Harbor with a bang. The outing on the mound and at the plate is one he and the team will never forget.

Genova put his team ahead with a two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning and then he recorded the final three outs to lift Newport Harbor past Placentia A, 9-8, and to its first super region tournament appearance.

Thirteen players and three coaches embraced on the field at the Placentia Champions Sports Complex. They made the most of their second chance to make history after falling short on Monday.

"It's pretty amazing," Pender said of seeing his team bounce back from Monday's 14-4 loss to Anaheim A in the tournament final to place second.

Newport Harbor joins Anaheim A in the super region in Whittier on Friday.

"I'm just happy for these kids," Pender said. "We really have a good team. We have a great pitching staff. The kids are just really into it, which makes it fun for a coach. I don't have any complaints."

Pender watched his team come back twice against Placentia and hold on at the end.

Genova made it happen with clutch hitting (three for four), pitching (seven strikeouts) and a wicked pickoff move in the bottom of the seventh.

With one out and Newport Harbor ahead by one, Placentia A had the game-tying run on first base. Pender noticed before the pickoff attempt that the Placentia A third-base coach yelled at his pinch runner for missing a sign.

The runner looked nervous to Pender and that is when he called for Genova to pick him off. Genova quickly spun toward first base, where his twin brother, Luke, stood and fired a perfect throw and Luke applied a perfect tag to get the runner.

With two down, Genova was on his way to throwing Newport Harbor's second complete game of the tournament. The other one was turned in by Luke and it came in a win against Placentia A in the tournament opener.

"It's hard to beat a team twice," Pender said.

Newport Harbor dug itself a hole for the second time in as many days. After holding Placentia A scoreless through two, Genova hurt himself by allowing the leadoff man to reach base for the third straight inning.

Placentia A did not hit the ball particularly hard, but it broke a scoreless tie in the third, bringing four runs across. With left-handed starter Nathan Flores dealing, Placentia A looked in great shape.

Flores had retired the side in order in two of the first three innings. In the fourth inning, he struggled with his command after giving up a leadoff double to Genova.

The next three batters reached base via walk, two pushed runs across. With its lead cut in half, Placentia A brought in Garrett Boaz to pitch. Newport Harbor continued to drive in runs, two on groundouts to even the game at 4-4.

Then Kelly Holgate brought three runs home on one swing of the bat. Holgate belted a three-run home run over the right-field fence and Newport Harbor led for the first time, 7-4.

Genova appreciated the support, seven runs in the fourth. The right-hander went back to work, making only one mistake in the fifth, when Flores led off the inning with a solo home run.

With a two-run cushion, Genova recorded his sixth strikeout and got the next two outs to get out of the fifth. The following inning was not as smooth.

Rather than face Flores again, Pender decided to intentionally walk him and load the bases with two outs. The strategy made sense. Genova owned the next batter, Raul Garcia, striking out the cleanup hitter in his previous three at-bats.

Garcia went after Genova's first offering and went the other way with it, clearing the bases with a double to left field. Placentia went back ahead, 8-7.

The lead was short lived.

Holgate led off with a single to left, his second hit. This set the stage for Genova, and the left-handed hitter rocked the ball over the right-field fence and Newport Harbor was back in front by one. Genova made sure the lead stood up at the end.

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