NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Quieting the bats of the Crescenta Valley Landry's Minor Baseball team is no easy task, but one that the Vaquero Cougars were up to nonetheless.
Behind 4 2/3 strong innings from starter Geo Ceballos, in which the right-hander allowed two earned runs on five hits while striking out nine, the Cougars opened their Tri-Cities District 16 Tournament of Champions run with a 3-2 win Wednesday afternoon at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields.
"It's always tough against CV, they're always the No. 1 team to come out of this area," Cougars Coach Mickey Moreno said of Landry's, which had scored a combined 38 runs in its previous two tournament contests. "We knew it was going to be a battle. We threw our ace today and he threw well."
After striking out the side in the first inning, it was Ceballos staring down a 1-0 deficit when he allowed a leadoff triple to Chase Sanford and a run-scoring single to AJ Roa to begin the second inning.
But in the end, it was one bad inning that caused Landry's to lose its lead and the game.
Orlando Diaz led off the third for the Cougars with a clean single to left field before the next two batters, Gabriel Gonzalez and Ceballos, reached on fielder's choice ground balls, the second of which scored Diaz to tie the game.
A walk to Arturo Gonzalez, sandwiched by a strikeout and shallow popout, created a bases-loaded situation with two outs, but the Cougars wouldn't need another hit to cash in some more runs.
A wild pitch to Jorge Allan allowed Gonzalez to score the go-ahead run and two pitches later in the same at bat, Ceballos broke for home from third base, drawing a throw from the mound that sailed high and allowed a run to score easily.
"We had one tough inning," said Landry's Coach John Giese, whose team will continue play in the loser's bracket. "[Our pitcher] struggled a little bit, ended up making too many mistakes, putting too many guys on base. We dug our grave and we jumped in it. It happens."
"Now we get to play a different role, the role of spoiler. Everybody comes down to us [in the loser's bracket] and we kick them out of the tournament."
Landry's continued to pressure the Cougars, pulling back within 3-2 in the top of the fourth on a two-out infield single by Harrison Woo that plated Roa (two for two). With next batter Tyler Cendejas at the plate, a pair of steals put two runners in scoring position with a full count, but Ceballos escaped with a strikeout.
"[Ceballos] threw really hard, mostly fastballs over the outside corner of the plate — he hit it really well," Giese said. "We adjusted to him, but not fast enough."
Ceballos retired the first two batters of the fifth inning before exiting with 86 pitches thrown. Diaz, who was two for three at the plate, worked a hitless 1 1/3 innings in relief for the save.
The Cougars will face Foothill Tommy's in the next round of the tournament at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tujunga Little League Fields.
"We're a really good fundamental team," said Moreno, who was ejected by the home plate umpire in the bottom of the second inning for questioning the strike zone. "We bunt a lot, we put the ball in play and we play defense. We played a very good team and we came out on top today."