PASADENA — The early innings of Thursday's 2010 Southern California Palomino League Regional Tournament pool-play game had to be frustrating for the Arroyo Seco Saints.
The squad, which features several current and former players from St. Francis High and is coached by Golden Knights assistant Aaron Milam, was spinning its wheels offensively through the first five frames at Jackie Robinson Field and doing little to support the solid effort of starting pitcher Ryan Brockett against the SoCal Rangers.
But satisfaction came in waves over the sixth and seventh innings, as the lineup finally began translating its base runners into runs, breaking open a tie game and rolling to an 8-5 victory.
"We knew our pitcher would show up and do great, and eventually we knew we would click [offensively]," said Saints left fielder Mark Saatzer, a St. Francis graduate, who went two for four and drove in three runs. "By now, we've got the confidence that at least if we start slow, eventually it will kick in.
"Once we can actually kick it in those first two innings, then nothing can stop us, really."
The Saints will aim to build momentum over the remainder of pool play, which continues through Monday with the regional championship game to be played at Jackie Robinson Field on Tuesday.
The top four teams in the region will advance to the West Zone Tournament, beginning July 31 in Compton.
Right fielder AJ Berglund, a St. Francis graduate, singled in the top of the fourth on a play that led to a throwing error that tied the game at 1.
It remained deadlocked until the top of the sixth, when Chester Pak led off with a double and St. Francis senior-to-be David Hubinger (one for one with two walks) singled to put runners at the corners with no outs.
Michael Soucy bunted the bases loaded to set up a five-run inning for the Saints, who took the lead on a hit by pitch and added runs on Dusty Sanderson's sacrifice fly, Saatzer's single to right field and back-to-back run-scoring singles by Kevin Swick and Josh Goosen-Brown.
Saatzer added some insurance runs with a two-run single in the top of the seventh inning after the Rangers had scored one run in the bottom of the sixth.
"If we wait like that [to score], we're not gonna win many baseball games, we've gotta figure that out," Milam said. "It's a good hitting team and they've got good chemistry and that's how we're managing to win games right now."
The sudden burst of offense in the later innings was noticeably lacking earlier for Arroyo Seco, which left six runners aboard, including the bases loaded in the top of the third, and had two runners picked off the base paths and hit into a pair of double plays over the first five innings.
All the while, Brockett was on his game and held the Rangers to one run on three hits over the same span. He finished with a line of three earned runs allowed on seven hits after surrendering singles to the last two batters he faced to lead off the bottom of the seventh. They would both eventually score, but Berglund recorded the last out in relief with two runners aboard
"The kid on the hill [did a] great job today," Milam said of Brockett. "We can't ask for anything better from a pitcher. We just have to find a way to get these kids motivated in the first, second and third inning to get those base runners across."