WOODLAND HILLS — The Valley Invitational Baseball League was an opportunity for the St. Francis baseball players to impress coach Aaron Dorlarque.
The Golden Knights coach witnessed players who made the most of their opportunities with contributions to the team’s summer tournament playoff run.
St. Francis, however, failed to sustain the summer success in a second-round playoff game against host El Camino Real.
The Conquistadors scored two runs in the first inning and five in the second as St. Francis fell, 9-3, at Mike Maio Stadium on Monday.
“It was a good chance to look at guys,” Dorlarque said. “We’re missing three of our starting pitchers, so this is a good opportunity to look at some other guys.
“Our defense isn’t all here. We’re missing our shortstop and our entire outfield, so you look at some of those balls and stuff and that would’ve been caught. I don’t want to take it too seriously and like I said, it’s a good chance to get a look at the other guys involved.”
A two-out triple followed by a single to center field drove in two runs for the Conquistadors in the bottom of the first for a 2-0 lead.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, El Camino Real knocked a pair of doubles to add four runs and extend the lead to 6-0.
“Collectively, with how we operate here and how we do things, we like to call ‘hunt the middle,’” El Camino Real assistant coach Danny Williams said. “Ideally, we try to split the field in half and have quality at-bats. Our job is to get the next guy up and be on time.”
El Camino Real center fielder Jacob Moreno finished off the scoring with a two-out single to make it 7-0.
“They did a good job in putting the ball in play and putting pressure on our defense,” Dorlarque said. “We gave them seven outs today and they’re a good club. Anytime you give anybody seven outs or free outs through errors or mental mistakes, they’re going to score some runs.”
St. Francis, which reached the second round with an 8-1 over Golden Valley on Friday, set up runners on the corners after a double and single in the top of the fourth.
Golden Knights center fielder Luke Crawshaw got the visitors on board in the same inning with an RBI-double to make the Conquistadors lead 7-1. A one-out bunt from Ryan Rizzo drove in another run to make it a five-run differential.
St. Francis drove in another run in the top of the fifth via a one-out double from catcher Brendan Durfee to score shortstop Tommy Italia and make it 7-3.
“The first time through, our guys were trying to hit the ball out of the ball park,” Dorlarque said. “The second time through, we just tried to stay middle and tried to do what they were doing playing the ball up the middle. I thought we did a good job in doing that.”
In the bottom of the inning, the Conquistadors continued to exploit the center-field gap and scored a run on a one-out double to stake a 8-3 lead, before a two-out line drive past first base finished off the El Camino Real scoring.
“It’s all about making the adjustments and that’s what we really try here,” Williams said. “Nothing’s ever perfect, like [relief pitcher] Nick Romero’s two-out walk. If he’s going to get high fast-ball counts, he’s going back and pounding the zone. Pitching with contact, that’s the main thing.”
Crawshaw finished with a double and a run batted in for St. Francis, Italia collected three singles and Rizzo and Stephan Castro both drove in a run.
St. Francis starting pitcher Kai Purdy-Burton went two innings with one strikeout and two walks before Rizzo relieved him for three innings and Justin Hindi closed out the final inning.
El Camino Real first baseman Steven Hernandez went three for three (triple, double, single) for three RBI and two runs scored. Conquistadors catcher Joey Klein also drove in three runs, recorded two hits and scored one run.
Conquistadors starting pitcher Edric Rodriguez threw four innings with one strikeout and one walk, while relief pitcher Nick Romero closed out two innings with two strikeouts and one walk.