NORTHEAST GLENDALE — A shaky beginning didn't discourage the Crescenta Valley Triscenic Minor Baseball team one bit in the District 16 Tournament of Champions title game Thursday night at Babe Herman Field.
Rather, Triscenic answered Crescenta Valley Foothill Athletic Club's four-run opening salvo in the bottom of the first inning and took the lead back immediately in the top of the second. The exciting high-scoring action that followed was certainly give-and-take, but never back-and-forth as far as the scoreboard, as Triscenic refused to surrender its lead en route to an 11-7 victory.
"It feels good to win," said Triscenic's Sammy Klein, who pitched 4 2/3 innings with three earned runs allowed to pick up the win and also had a three-run triple in the second inning that sparked the team's comeback. "[Our defense] was really good. At first we were kind of struggling a little bit, but then we came through."
Offense helped Triscenic get back in the game early, but it was several sharp defensive plays that helped it hang on to its lead over the last three frames.
With one out and runners at first and second, a 1-3-2 double play preserved an 8-6 lead for Triscenic in the bottom of the fourth. Klein, after allowing a one-out walk and base hit in the inning, came off the mound to field a soft grounder and gunned out the batter on a close play at first base just before the lead runner was cut down on a play at the plate on a throw from Daniel Jung to Braeden Bentzen.
After raising the lead to 11-6 on a Bentzen double followed by a string of Foothill fielding errors in the top of the fifth, Klein got out of the bottom half on just five pitches, as shortstop Jagr Proiette sucked up consecutive well-struck first-pitch grounders and threw out the first two batters of the inning.
And, although Max Nelson's leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth resulted in Foothill's final run of the game, the run scored on a wild pitch and back-to-back groundouts, including an RBI groundout by Jared Bourgault, as the defense smartly traded the run for critical outs.
"Jagr made several great plays at shortstop, he was really a stud," Triscenic Coach Mike Klein said. "All the way around, once we got through the first inning, the defense was very tight."
Foothill took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning without recording a hit. Leadoff hitter Jacob Ralston walked and worked his way around the base paths on a series of wild pitches, finally scoring on one from third base.
Eli Weber then walked, Alejandro Sandoval-Walsh reached on catcher's interference and Peter Zalewski took a pitch between the shoulder blades to load the bases and force a pitching change with just one out in the frame.
Things continued to go anything but smoothly for Triscenic in the inning, as Weber scored on a wild pitch, sliding just under the catcher's tag, and Sandoval-Walsh and Zalewski both scored on a pair of errors on Sandoval-Walsh's attempted steal of home.
Triscenic came right back with a seven-run two-out rally in the top of the second, sparked by a bases-loaded triple by Klein that scored Jason Cooperson, Nathan Sunwoo and Braeden Bentzen.
Jung followed with run-scoring single up the middle, Proiette laced an opposite-field double to right-center field to plate Jung and Noah Langford followed with a single to center field that led to a run-scoring error and a 6-4 Triscenic lead. Another run would be tacked on soon after via an error on a throw back to the mound between pitches.
"We had a good game plan going in," Foothill Coach Jason Bourgault said. "We made a couple mistakes, errors, and those will cost you."
Klein helped snuff out a two-out, first-and-third threat by Foothill in the bottom of the second by snaring a screaming line drive back over the mound for the third out and Triscenic added another run to its tally on a Foothill error in the top of the third make it 8-4.
Foothill tested Klein again in the bottom of the third, scoring a pair of runs on a leadoff single by Sandoval-Walsh, a triple by Zalewski and a run-scoring fielder's choice by Jackson Bullard, and threatening for more with runners at first and second with no outs. But Klein struck out the next two batters looking and induced a grounder to second to escape the jam with an 8-6 lead.
"We started out rough in the first inning, a lot of nerves, lot of mistakes," the elder Klein said. "Once we settled down after he first inning, I thought we played a great game."