NORTHWEST GLENDALE ? Two outs were all that separated the Hoover High baseball team from the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I tournament.
Two outs too many.
Visiting Arlington of Riverside rallied for two runs with one out in the top of the seventh inning to edge past Hoover in a 4-3 nailbiter in a wild-card game Tuesday afternoon at Hoover High.
"Our kids played with a lot of heart and a lot of desire. That's all I asked of them before the game, to come out, play with heart and play to their potential, and I got it," said Hoover Coach Jim Delzell, whose team ended its season at 14-10 after a third-place Pacific League finish.
An inning after Tornado Robert Carrega scored the go-ahead run on a Sammy Cuccinello sacrifice fly, Arlington notched three straight hits that equated to the game's last two runs.
Despite the fact that No. 1-seed Esperanza awaited the winner on Thursday, that didn't stop either team for scratching, clawing and clutching up for seven innings.
"Outstanding game," said Arlington Coach Gary Rungo, whose Lions were the third-place finisher in the Ivy League. "I give a lot of credit to Hoover, they're a battling team, they have a lot of heart."
A shortage of heart or character wasn't the home team's undoing. It was the heart of the Lion order.
The 2-3-4 hitters ? Adam Salazar, Robert Jackson and Bryan Suarez ? went eight for 11 with four runs batted in and four runs scored.
"They really helped us out," said Rungo of the three spots that tallied all of his team's hits.
Added Delzell: "[Hoover starter] John [La] pitched a good game. Some of the hits they had were on good pitches, they're just good players."
The game's first hit was a Salazar round-tripper.
It gave Arlington a 1-0 lead, but Hoover quickly answered when Chase Doremus ? who went one for one with a double, was hit by a pitch and walked ? scored on a Jason Ochart sacrifice fly in the second.
Carrega beat out a double-play ball to score Sergio Corral, who went two for three, for a 2-1 Tornado lead in the fifth.
Meanwhile, La (4-5) made a habit of stranding Lion runners. He pitched out of trouble all game, leaving two runners on in the first, one in the second, two in the third, two in the fifth and even one in the decisive seventh.
Hoover, despite scoring runs in both stanzas, had opportunities for big innings in both the second and sixth. In the second, the Tornadoes loaded the bases with no outs. In the sixth, they put runners on second and third with no outs. On both occasions, though, three consecutive outs would follow with just a run apiece to show for it.
Even in the bottom of the seventh, they still had a chance.
A La double and a Chile Jaco walk with two outs kept the Tornadoes breathing, before Arlington reliever Faustino Delgado (5-6) notched his third strikeout of the inning to end Hoover's season.
"I told them it was nothing to hang their heads about. It was a good season, especially with all we went through," said Delzell in reference to a year that saw a handful of injuries and ineligible players at the season's onset. "They played a hard seven innings, that's all I can ask for."