GLENDALE — To put it bluntly, the San Gabriel Valley 16-18 Babe Ruth All-Stars threw away a chance to advance to today’s Babe Ruth World Series, or at least a chance to keep their opponent, the Hammond (Ind.) Chiefs, from doing so in a semifinal game at Moses Lake, Wash. on Friday.
With the Chiefs threatening with two outs and runners at the corners in the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game, San Gabriel Valley catcher Matt Page tried to gun down Kevin Franchetti on his way to stealing second base.
Regardless of the motivation for the play, it was the execution that cost San Gabriel Valley, which features nine local players, as the throw sailed over Crescenta Valley High sophomore second baseman Nate Rousey’s reach and into center field.
Mike Kozlowski raced home easily from third with the go-ahead run to seal a 3-2 walkoff win that gave San Gabriel Valley no chance to reply, as it did with the game on the line in the top of the seventh.
San Gabriel Valley tied the game at 2 in the top of the seventh when first baseman Tim Smoley, an Arcadia High graduate, clutched up with the All-Stars down to their last out, hitting a double to score pinch-runner Joe Gill. Smoley advanced to third on a throwing error on the play, but was stranded there when shortstop Cody Regis flew out to left field.
San Gabriel Valley had led since the top of the third inning behind a stellar effort from starter Danny Vargas, who went seven innings and allowed just one run on five hits, while striking out six.
Vargas led off the third with a double and advanced to third on an infield single by Crescenta Valley sophomore Troy Mulcahey.
With Smoley batting, Vargas scored on a bad pickoff attempt that got past the Chiefs’ first baseman and allowed Mulcahey to advance to second.
But Smoley then flew out, Regis struck out and Mulcahey was caught stealing at third base to squelch the rally.
It was the slimmest of leads, but one that San Gabriel Valley held dear to over the next two-plus frames through Vargas’ craftiness and trusty defense.
Hammond finally broke through against Vargas in the bottom of the sixth, despite having the tying run thrown out at the plate on a fielder’s choice putout from Regis to Page on a ball hit by Franchetti.
That play made the second out, but Hammond rekindled the rally with a single to move Franchetti to second and the two-run go-ahead knock off the bat of Ryan Eger to go ahead, 2-1.
San Gabriel Valley and Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres was ejected in the bottom of the seventh according to radio reports.