COMPTON — Defense had been a concern, and rightfully so.
After collecting four errors in a Palomino Southern California Regional game earlier this week, the Arroyo Seco Saints were intent on cleaning up their defense for the start of the Palomino West Zone Tournament.
And by the outcome of Friday afternoon's opening-round game, one could hardly tell it had been an issue at all.
The Saints committed only one error as they came away with a 7-0 win against the top-seeded Colton Nighthawks at the MLB Youth Academy. They advanced to the second round today to face the So Cal Bombers – who won their first-round game, 4-2, against the Santa Clara Red Sox – at 4:30 p.m.
"Games are generally won or lost on defense," said assistant Tom Stafford, who took the helm with Coach Aaron Milam out of town and returning on Saturday. "When our bats show up and we pitch well and we put together our defense like that, obviously that's a good combination."
The Saints had it going Friday.
Sean Becker had eight strikeouts and allowed only four hits and two walks in a complete game. Arroyo Seco tallied six hits – three were doubles, two were triples – though no one Saints player had more than one.
David Hubinger, a St. Francis graduate bound for Pepperdine University, hit a RBI triple in the third inning that scored Steven Karkenny to push Arroyo Seco's lead to 4-0.
Hubinger scored off a wild pitch, and K.C. Huth followed with a double. Huth stole third base and then scored after an errant throw helped cap a three-run inning. It was the second three-run inning of the day after the Saints took a 3-0 lead in the second inning.
"We just played a complete game," Hubinger said. "I think we've just been waiting to play a full game, a complete game in all aspects. We finally put it together and it worked out well for us. This puts us in a good position for the rest of the tournament."
The Saints entered the tournament as a third seed after having lost to the Playa Vista Orioles, 6-5, in the regional semifinals on Monday. It was the same elimination game that featured four Arroyo Seco errors.
Yet the Saints still qualified as one of four teams to advance to the eight-team West Zone Tournament, which began Friday and concludes with Tuesday's championship game. And with that came a fresh start for a team that needed it.
"It's a good feeling because, as a team, we hit a little bit of a rough patch coming out of the regional," said Brandon Van Horn, a St. Francis grad headed for Riverside City College, who hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored the final run. "This is a great way to start off the tournament, with everyone contributing."
Arroyo Seco jumped out early for a 3-0 lead in the second off a Walker Moses three-run double that scored Huth, Van Horn and Kam Young.