GLENDALE — Having been together for nearly two weeks, the members of the San Gabriel Valley 16-18 Babe Ruth All-Star baseball team have not taken long in mastering the art of winning close games.
It's led to a tremendous windfall for San Gabriel Valley, which features five local players and is coached by Crescenta Valley High baseball Coach Phil Torres, which claimed its biggest victory yet.
Nick Wagner singled in the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning and Troy Mulcahey earned the save in San Gabriel Valley's 5-4 win against Watsonville in the championship game of the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament on Tuesday night at Modesto Christian High, ascending to the Babe Ruth World Series in the process.
San Gabriel Valley, which has won three one-run games in the tournament, will begin its quest for a World Series title Aug. 6-13 at Johnson-O'Brien Stadium in Ephrata, Wash.
"For the guys, it's awesome," said Torres, whose team reached the title game Sunday with a 2-1 win against a Watsonville squad that beat San Gabriel Valley to win the tournament last season. "This is the whole reason right here why you do it.
"They played ball these last few days and we were able to win the close games. Now, we have bigger things to look forward to."
San Gabriel Valley, which will make it first trip to the World Series in two years, overcame a 4-1 deficit. Brennen Salgado hit a three-run home run to right to knot the game at 4 in the bottom of the fifth.
Torres said Salgado's heroics lifted San Gabriel Valley, which last won the World Series in 2007.
"He'd come in struggling a little bit," Torres said. "He just found a way to come through.
"We just chipped away and we did a great job of coming back."
Wagner completed the comeback by bringing in Martin Gallegos from second with a single.
Mulcahey, one of four Crescenta Valley High players on the roster, came in relief of starting pitcher KJ Edson to begin the seventh. The right-hander struck out the first batter before walking the next hitter. Mulcahey bounced back by recording a strikeout and a grounder to second.
"It's huge to come back and beat them after what happened last year," Mulcahey said. "It's good to get some revenge.
"We just had to keep on fighting."
After Watsonville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, San Gabriel responded with a run in its half of the inning on a run-scoring single by Crescenta Valley High's Elliott Surrey.
In the top of the second, Watsonville took advantage of three errors by Edson to take a 4-1 lead. Edson, however, would notch the win and finished with six strikeouts.
Surrey, who finished with a team-high three hits, said San Gabriel Valley had enough time to recover and mount its comeback.
"We know that we have enough hitting to be able to come back and we had to stay patient," Surrey said. "Salgado has been struggling and then he gets the big home run.
"They always have good teams and we knew it would be tough to beat them. We took the approach of just trying to stay close. It's fun and exciting to now be going out of state and playing different teams from around the country."
Mulcahey had one hit for San Gabriel Valley, which received one from St. Francis High graduate Mark Saatzer and Adam McCreery.
"It's huge for us to be going to the World Series," Mulcahey said. "We are starting to come together."