SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — The Foothill and Vaquero 9-10 All-Star teams both came into Saturday's District 16 All-Star Tournament game looking for a bounce-back performance after losing the day before.
Both teams got just that, but of course, only one team could walk away victorious. Vaquero did just that, defeating Foothill, 4-1, after a three-run bottom of the fifth inning at Pacific Park on Saturday. The win puts Vaquero in competition against Tujunga at the Tujunga Little League Fields Monday at 7:30 p.m.
"We lost yesterday and I told them we have to toughen up for today and do the best that we can," said Vaquero Coach Luis Cejudo. "They helped us out today and did a great job."
Both Foothill and Vaquero were led by strong starting-pitching performances from Jacob Guillen and Stevie Murrillo, respectively. They both threw four innings of one-run ball.
"[Guillen] played a great game and was great for four innings," said Erik Hovland, Foothill's coach. "We did a good job of holding them up until the fifth inning. They did exactly what I asked them to do. I have no regrets with how they played."
Murrillo struck out three batters for Vaquero and surrendered his only run in the top of the third. Ryan Kataoka and Drake Cronthall reached base for Foothill — on a hit by pitch and a walk, respectively — with no outs to start the frame. Kataoka came around to score on a throwing error to give his team a 1-0 lead. Cronthall attempted to score on the same play after another throwing error, but was gunned out at home.
Guillen battled through four innings and struck out seven batters. The only run he gave up came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Omar Hernandez drove in Nathan Rivera, who reached on an error to start the inning and went on to steal second and third base, with a line-drive single to tie the game at 1.
Joseph Schmidt was the next batter and he worked a walk to load the bases with one out. Guillen rebounded and struck out the next two batters to end the threat and keep the score tied.
Vaqueros saved its big inning for the bottom of the fifth. Murrillo was hit by a pitch to start the attack and Jacob Romero reached on an error. Both runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball and Rivera drove Murrillo home with a single. The Vaqueros stayed aggressive on the base paths, as Murrillo and Romero both scored on a wild pitch to give their squad a 4-1 lead.
"I told them we have to try to be aggressive," Cejudo said. "I started moving guys on base to try to get them pumped up and make sure we would score some runs and win.
"I told them to keep their heads up and battle. Anything can happen in baseball, you just have to keep battling."
The lead wasn't going to be squandered, Hernandez made sure of that. He held Foothill scoreless from the mound with two shutout innings to close out the game. He gave up two hits but struck out four batters, as he struck out the side to end the game.
"I felt confident, I was striking a lot of guys out," said Hernandez, adding that he could see his team winning the entire tournament now.
Even though it never feels good after a season-ending loss, Hovland said he couldn't be prouder of his team's ability to bounce back after a tough loss Friday.
"Yesterday we got shellacked, 20-1 — that team totally outclassed us," Hovland said. "These guys came back and played a really hard game and didn't give up. They could have come in here and gave up but they didn't."