LA CRESCENTA — Early offense put the Jewel City Bears Junior Baseball team in the driver's seat, but consistently effective pitching and defense drove it home to the Tri-Cities District 16 Tournament of Champions title with a 7-2 win over Crescenta Valley Kelly & Small Accounting on Wednesday night at Dunsmore Park.
Jewel City starting pitcher Eric Winner went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts to earn the win, as the Bears played nearly error-free defense behind him throughout the night.
"It's pretty cool," Winner said of claiming the title. "I was pretty comfortable [on the mound]. My defense was working, my pitches were hitting the outside corners."
The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Fidel Hernandes led off the game with double and later scored on a groundout by Winner. The lead doubled in the second inning thanks to a two-out, run-scoring single off the bat of Hernandes that plated courtesy runner Michael Brian.
The game remained 2-0 until the bottom of the third inning when Kelly & Small's Christian Castaneda's fielder's choice brought in Chase Baker. But, right after Kelly & Small narrowed the gap, Jewel City struck for four runs in the top of the fourth to break it open.
Ryan Vargas sparked the outburst with a leadoff double to deep center field. Julian Rovira advanced the runner with an infield single and Vargas scored on a double steal with Manny Medrano batting to make it 3-1. After Medrano walked and Rovira had stolen third with Brian batting, Rovira scored easily on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt at first base.
Hernandes was then intentionally walked with one out and first base open, setting the stage for a two-run double by Taylor Saldana that bumped the lead up to 6-1.
Winner retired the first batter of the bottom of the fourth on a fly ball in foul territory and a scorched line drive was snared at first base for the second out. In the bottom of the fifth, Winner needed just eight pitches to record three outs on a 5-3 groundout and fly balls to right and center field.
"We hit a lot of balls at their players and they made the plays," Kelly & Small Coach David Bolstad said. "We hit the ball hard enough to easily score half a dozen runs, but we hit it at them. Defensively, they played better than we did and they deserved to win."
The Bears tacked on another insurance run in the top of the sixth on an RBI single up the middle by Winner, but Kelly & Small would threaten over their last two innings.
Castaneda doubled and scored on John Bolstad's single in the sixth and Winner was chased by Joe Reilly's single that put runners at first and second with two outs. But reliever JD Kiefer ended the inning on his first pitch and worked around a one-out error and single in the seventh to close it out.