TUJUNGA — After seeing a five-run lead go up in smoke, the Vaquero Cougars Major Baseball team was able to put out the fire of Foothill Tommy's comeback bid in the Tri-Cities District 16 Tournament of Champions Friday night at Tujunga Little League Fields.
Foothill rallied for a five-spot in the bottom of the fourth, only to see the Cougars come right back with the winning run in the top of the fifth and advance in the tournament with a 6-5 victory.
"It really showed a lot for my Cougars," said Cougars Coach Geo Ceballos, whose team will play at Babe Herman Monday at 7:30 p.m. "It was great, we played small ball and that's what got us all those runs."
The Cougars came out hard trying to get the lead back in the top of the fifth, opening with a single by David Piedra and a bunt back to the mound by Gavin Burciaga on which the pitcher couldn't make a play. But Piedra was out trying to take third on the play for the first out.
After a strikeout by Tommy's pitcher Austin Lee against the first batter he faced in relief of David Bernal, Tommy's looked to be out of the inning on a soft ground ball, but a dropped ball at first base prolonged the inning and allowed Burciaga to score the go-ahead run from second base.
Cougars' pitcher Orlando Diaz struck out the side in the fifth and retired Tommy's in order in the sixth to earn the save.
Facing a 5-0 deficit, Tommy's got something going in the bottom of the fourth when Cameron Penza led off with a double over third base, Bernal walked and Lee was hit by a pitch.
That was the end of Cougars starter Nick Morgan's night, as he yielded to lefty reliever Arturo Gonzalez after allowing one earned run on two hits in three-plus innings, Gonzalez induced a fly-ball first out, but then allowed a single to center field by Jalani Ligons that got Tommy's on the board, 5-1.
Then, the wheels fell off for the Cougars, as a throwing error on a fielder's choice groundout by Davis Mieliwocki cleared the bases and put the tying run 90 feet from the plate. Mieliwocki scored on the very next pitch, a wild offering.
"We've been battling back all year long," Tommy's Coach David Bernal said. "Evey game we've won all year, we've come back and I expect to battle from behind and win."
Bernal worked out of a jam in the top of the first inning after putting runners at first and third with one out on a bunt single followed by an eight-pitch walk, getting out of the inning with a strikeout and a groundout to short.
Tommy's stranded a runner in scoring position in its half of the first when Nick Martin walked and advanced two bases on wild pitches only to be left a third base on an inning-ending strikeout by Morgan.
Piedra led off the second with a double scalded to deep right-center field, setting the stage for a three-run inning in which no other batted ball left the infield.
Next batter Burciaga singled back to the mound, but the play resulted in a throwing error that brought Piedra home and put Burciaga on second.
The fielding woes continued for Tommy's, as a three-base throwing error on Alex Garcia's bunt attempt brought another run in and Garcia made it 3-0 when he scored from third base on a wild pitch to Stevie Murillo.
Tommy's rebuttal threat in the bottom of the frame – a leadoff walk drawn by Bernal and a one-out single up the middle by Jakob Levant – was put out by Morgan via a strikeout and groundout.
The Cougars tacked on another run in the top of the third when Arturo Gonzalez, who had started the rally with a walk, scored from third base on a catcher's interference call with Jorge Allan batting.
Morgan fanned the side in order in the bottom of the third inning.
Diaz hit a laser into the left-field corner for a leadoff triple in the fourth and scored on a wild pitch to next batter Gabriel Gonzalez to make it 5-0.