NORTHEAST GLENDALE — For the first time in the 12-year history of the District 16 9-10 Baseball All-Star Tournament, the Vaquero All-Stars will be the district’s representative in the Section 2 playoffs.
Vaquero had to fight off a determined Crescenta Valley All-Star squad, which beat Vaquero on Monday to force an “if-necessary” championship game, but emerged victorious over CV, 2-1, on Tuesday behind timely early offense and another strong outing from starting pitcher Gio Ceballos.
The young lefty allowed just one run on five hits over 4 2/3 innings before yielding to David Piedra, who recorded a hitless four-out save.
“They played a helluva game, they just fought to the end,” Vaquero Coach Juan Piedra said of Crescenta Valley, which kept its championship hopes alive with an 8-6 win on Monday. “Our defense was good and Gio, our ace pitcher, was just really hot today and David just closed it. You’ve gotta appreciate what those two kids can do.”
Tuesday’s game bore some similarities to the teams’ meeting on Friday, in which Vaquero failed to score after the first inning, but made an early three-run lead stand up for a 3-2 win and a championship berth behind Ceballos and David Piedra.
Once again, Vaquero did its damage early on Tuesday, with two runs in the bottom of the first, an inning that could have been even bigger for Vaquero had it not run into two outs on the base paths.
Ceballos was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, but was gunned down trying to steal second base. Daniel Gonzalez then worked a four-pitch walk and was moved to third base on a double to left field by Piedra.
Cleanup hitter Orlando Diaz singled to shortstop to drive in Gonzalez and advance Piedra and went to second base himself on an error. Piedra scored the team’s second run on a close play at the plate following a wild pitch to batter Javier Hurtado, but Diaz made the second out trying to do the very same thing two pitches later on an equally close call at the dish.
Vaquero would get just four more singles the rest of the game against Crescenta Valley starter Max Meyer and couldn’t push across an insurance run.
But Ceballos pitched to contact and fell back on the range and accuracy of his infielders to thwart Crescenta Valley’s own attempts to rally.
Crescenta Valley’s opening inning started with a leadoff single by Adrian Damla, but ended on two calmly turned fielder’s choice putouts at second base and a ball fielded deep in the hole at shortstop. In the second inning, Vaquero worked around another leadoff hit with an inning-ending double play on a fly ball.
“This was a classic case of defense wins ballgames,” Crescenta Valley Coach John Geise said. “We hit the ball all over the field and their defense grabbed it and threw us out.
“I couldn’t ask my boys to do anything different than what they did. ...A couple inches this way or that and it could have been a different ballgame, but it wasn’t.”
Crescenta Valley’s lone run came in the top of the fourth, when Jake Whisenant beat out an infield single to lead things off and scored on a high chopper over third base by Frank Alsamman.