TUJUNGA — The game-winning run was scored in the bottom half of the fifth inning, but Jewel City Elks Coach Phillip Palmer will tell you his team's 8-7 win at Tujunga Little League Fields Thursday was made possible by a defensive play made in the top half.
Trailing by two runs against the Vaquero Dodgers in the Tri-Cities District 16 Minor Baseball Tournament of Champions, the Elks were looking at possibly giving up more than just the insurance run already given up on a walk, as the Dodgers still had the bases loaded with two outs.
Looking to put the game away, Vaquero Nate Rangel stepped up to plate and hit the ball sharply to second base where Steven Rovira made a diving catch to end the inning, preventing any more damage and giving the offense a final at-bat to win it.
And the offense came through, scoring three in the fifth, including the game-winning run from Alex Rho, made possible by Ben Rosales' well-hit grounder to first.
"We were lucky to have our third, fourth, and fifth hitters lead off the fifth, so I knew we had a good chance, because we had a good part of our lineup," Palmer said. "Without Rovira's diving catch, we have no chance."
The Elks loaded up the bases with no outs in the deciding inning. Evan Glarum brought the game to within one run when he came home on a wild pitch. Then Jackson Rodgers slid into home plate after a dribbler back to the pitcher off the bat of Reese Turpin. The throw was in time back to the catcher, but the tag wasn't made, tying up the ballgame at seven.
Rosales then hit the ball to first, which allowed Rho to score. The time allotted to a little league game was spent, thus a sixth inning wasn't played, allowing jubilation on the field for the squad from Jewel City.
"Rosales has worked hard all year long, so it's really cool that he hit the ball that scored the birthday boy [Rho]," Palmer said. "Rosales was told to not swing at that ball, so it was one of those, 'What are you doing, great play.'"
The Elks scored the final run of the game similarly to how they scored the first run of the game. Glarum's grounder plated Flynt Clayton for a 1-0 early lead. A throwing error at third allowed a second run with two outs.
The Dodgers answered with two of their own in the second inning and tied it up again in the third at 3.
Jewel City tacked on three more in the third, highlighted by Rangel's double that scored two and increased the Dodgers' lead to 6-3.
Clayton answered in the fourth inning with a single that scored Andrew Jerome and Dillon Bolin, cutting the lead back to a one-run deficit and setting the stage for the thrilling fifth and final inning.
"That's baseball, what are you going to do," said Jewel City Coach Luis Cejudo of a comeback victory for the Elks that could have been avoided with a tag.
The Elks will play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields against either the Burbank Dodgers or the Burbank Angels.
"All year long I can't tell you how many one-run games we've lost," Palmer said. "They played a great game today."