NORTHEAST GLENDALE — While frantically trying to dig their way out of the mess made by a meltdown on the mound and in the field in the sixth inning, the members of the Crescenta Valley District 16 Junior Baseball All-Stars had nearly repaid the same fate on their opponent, San Marino, by the conclusion of a wild seventh inning on Sunday night.
Crescenta Valley was able to cut a nine-run deficit down to three runs by scoring three apiece in the sixth and seventh innings, but the comeback fell just short, as San Marino posted a 17-14 win at Scholl Canyon Park to advance to the championship game at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the same venue.
Crescenta Valley, which was knocked into the loser's bracket, must now play an elimination game against Encino at 5:30 p.m. today at Scholl Canyon to try to get back on course to win the tournament and advance to the District Tournament. In order to do that, Crescenta Valley will have to win today and then and then beat San Marino twice, including in an if-necessary game Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m. at Scholl Canyon.
"Now we're gonna have to come back and win three games starting [today]," Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres said.
Josh Cook connected on a monster three-run home run to dead center field in the bottom of the sixth to cut San Marino's lead to 17-11. At the time, it seemed to hardly matter in the face of the 13-run inning San Marino had just put up, an outburst fueled by six hits, including a two-run home run, four walks and two costly errors.
"I think if we catch that fly ball in the sixth inning, it's 11-11 and we win the game," Torres said in reference to a dropped catch in center field that extended the inning and allowed San Marino to eventually score seven more runs. "Then it's a whole different scenario."
But Cook's blast would be the beginning of a comeback that had San Marino anything but comfortable in trying to close out the last inning.
Kyle Tremain reached on an error to start the bottom of the seventh and although San Marino was able to retire two of the next four batters, it also walked the other two to load the bases. A fielding error on a Michael Russo ground ball brought in two runs and Crescenta Valley pulled to within 17-14 on a throwing error up the right-field line on a strikeout and passed ball.
"It's the age of the players and a pretty small little park," Torres cited as reasons behind the wild finish. "It's fun, the kids hit home runs, we made some really nice plays and then we had balls go right through the legs. That's just the age of the players."
Crescenta Valley had controlled the game in the early going, taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning on a two-RBI double by Cook that scored Russo and Teddy Boeke. Austin Brines plated another run with a single and the fourth run crossed on a wild pitch.
Boeke effectively held the San Marino lineup in check, tossing five innings and allowing three runs, only one of them earned, before leaving with an 8-4 lead.
That lead was immediately halved before Crescenta Valley could record an out in the top of the sixth, as Justin Hill homered with a man aboard to cut it to 8-6.
A bloop single, followed by a hit by pitch and groundout to move up the runners set the stage for Jeffrey Bain's RBI infield single, followed by a run-scoring wild pitch. With a run-scoring error, a controversial ruling on a flyout that allowed another run to score and then two straight walks, the game was quickly getting out of hand.
Another error plated a run and kept the inning going for Ryan Kiernan's two-run single and Bain, the 16th batter of the frame, homered to make it 16-8. In all, San Marino would send 18 batters to the plate in what had become a nightmare inning for Crescenta Valley.