Bears roar to life with rally

LA CRESCENTA — It was improbable, it was shocking and it was timely.

Heading into the top of the seventh inning, the Jewel City Bears Junior Baseball team seemed like it would be dispatched and have its season ended by a relief pitcher who just seemed too good.

Ryan Whisenant was nearly unhittable, carrying Kitchen, out of the Crescenta Valley Little League, to within one out of Wednesday's championship game of the District 16 Tri-Cities Tournament of Champions.

But with two outs, the Bears had an unbelievable rally.

Down to its final out and trailing by two runs, the Bears put together four hits and drew two walks to score seven runs and come away with a 10-7 victory against Kitchen on Sunday at Dunsmore Park.

The Bears will play either Crescenta Valley Kelly & Small or Crescenta Valley DCG Electric at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Dunsmore Park for the title. Kitchen was eliminated from the single-elimination tournament.

Bears Coach Dave Miller has been around Little League baseball and softball long enough to see his share of dominating performances, rallies, heartbreaks, clutch breakthroughs and triumphs.

Sunday's contest had all of those aspects of a brilliant game.

Whisenant, a lefty, entered the game in the top of the third inning and didn't allow a run until the seventh. He yielded just two hits from the third through the sixth inning, striking out seven in the process.

"You hear of a lefty being crafty," Miller said. "With a lefty, the ball is going to tail away and these kids are not going to hit the ball the other way. A high school coach will teach you, but they don't get that concept yet. It's different here.

"He was one out away from pitching one of the best games I've seen all year."

With Whisenant in control, Kitchen scored two runs apiece in the bottom half of the third and sixth innings to take a 5-3 lead. Whisenant, Brian Gadsby, Johnny Alvarado, Johnny Yentch and Jacob De La Hoya each scored for Kitchen.

With Kitchen poised to advance, Taylor Saldana started the top of the seventh with a single to left. Whisenant quickly retired the next two batters and the Bears were left hoping that the bottom half of its lineup would produce to keep its season alive.

The next seven batters all produced.

J.D. Kiefer, who scored twice, started the rally with a single, scoring Saldana to cut Kitchen's lead to 5-4. Another hit by Ryan Vargas and a walk to Julian Rovira loaded the bases. Pinch-hitter Brian Torres drew a walk, scoring Kiefer to tie the contest.

That's when Miller decided to make a gutsy call with his No. 9 hitter, Alec Spahr.

"I told him, wait for a strike and lay down a bunt," Miller said.

With Vargas sprinting home from third, Spahr bunted right back to Whisenant, whose throw home was late, bringing home the go-ahead run.

Fidel Hernandes and Saldana added back-to-back, two-run doubles to give the Bears a lead that they would not relinquish.

"We just couldn't get it together," Kitchen Coach Roy Westhoff said. "The Bears came alive. They played a smart, smart game. We couldn't find the key to close it out with two outs. It's happened to us a lot."

Saldana led the Bears with four hits and three runs scored. Hernandes added two runs and two hits.

Said Saldana: "I just really hoped we hit [in the seventh inning] because their pitcher had been striking out a lot of our players."

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