TUJUNGA — After the bizarre ways in which several scoring opportunities were snuffed out early in Friday's District 16 9-10 Baseball All-Star Tournament game, anything seemed possible.
Still, when the Vaquero All-Stars saw their best opportunity to overtake the Tujunga All-Stars abruptly ended by a triple play, the general reaction was one of stunned bewilderment in the moments following a 3-2 first-round loss at Tujunga Little League Fields.
"That's never happened to us — not this year at least," said Vaquero Coach Hector Nuñez. "But, you know, it happens."
Trailing 3-2, Jason Rivas led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single to right field, Vaquero's first and only hit of the game.
A pair of consecutive walks then loaded the bases with no outs.
Tujunga pitcher Nick Cabrera induced the next Vaquero batter into a soft ground ball back to the mound and threw home to force the first out on the lead runner.
Catcher Skyler Payne threw to first, beating the runner there by a step, as another Vaquero runner tried to score from third on the play.
That run never scored, as the third out came on a slide into a tag at home plate to end the promising rally.
Tujunga's escape from that jam was reminiscent of some early breaks that went the way of the Vaquero All-Stars, breaks which allowed them to take a 1-0 lead in the third inning despite having been outhit 7-0 to that point.
In each of the first two innings, Tujunga put runners in scoring position with no outs before falling victim to some confusion involving the infield fly rule.
Double plays got Vaquero out of both jams when pop flys on the infield — representing automatic outs — were allowed to fall and, in each case, a Tujunga base runner was thrown out trying to advance.
In the third, Tujunga's Noah Hoed lined a one-out single that would have put runners on first and second, but the momentum was quelled when Hoed was called out for a bat-throwing violation.
It all set the stage for the bottom of the third, in which Vaquero scored the first run of the game.
Kenneth Garcia was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and worked his way around to score on three consecutive wild pitches with Isaac Hernandez at the plate.
"Just take the pitches, that's what I told the kids," Nuñez said. "If they give you the base we'll take it, and if you get a hit that's even better. Anything helps."
A small-ball approach also helped Vaquero score its second run in the fourth, in reply to a five-hit, three-run outburst by Tujunga in the top of the inning.
Vaquero's Chris Ramirez was hit by a pitch to begin the frame, and made his way to third by advancing on two more wild pitches.
Andreas Garcia drove him in with a one-out grounder to first base.
The Vaquero All-Stars resume play in the tournament Sunday at 1 p.m. at Tujunga against an opponent to be determined.