GLENDALE — A pair of walks, a controversial balk and a troublesome breeze all played a part in an unfortunate start to the Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series for the San Gabriel Valley All-Stars.
In the end, a seventh-inning rally came up just short, as San Gabriel Valley was outlasted by Syracuse, NY, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon in the tournament's first pool-play game in Ephrata, Wash.
"We've still got three games [left in pool play], but we're in a very tough pool," said SGV Coach Phil Torres, who's also the Crescenta Valley High coach. "We'll have to pull a rabbit out our hats one of these days. We don't have any easy games."
San Gabriel Valley, the Pacific Southwest representative, faces host Ephrata tonight at 8 before a 5 p.m. tilt Monday against Ottumwa, Iowa before then finishing pool play Tuesday at 2 p.m. against Mobile, Ala.
In large part, Saturday's opener boiled down to two innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, Syracuse scored all three of its runs while the top of the seventh saw Troy Prasertsit, one of seven CV players on the team, left stranded at third base after SGV had previously scored its only two runs in the stanza.
SGV starter Daniel Zamora issued two walks to begin the fourth and both led to runs.
"Leadoff walks in an inning can be a killer," said Elliott Surrey, another CV product who threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to close out the game. "You can't walk guys, you have to throw strikes."
The final run of the inning came on a controversial balk call in which SGV seemingly had a Syracuse runner picked off, but the second-base umpire ruled the move a balk to push home the runner from third for a 3-0 lead.
"It wasn't a balk," Torres said. "It was a simple back-and-forth move where we picked the guy off. It's a bummer, cause that was the difference in the game."
For most of the game, though, the SGV bats were stifled and held to six hits — though that was two more than Syracuse tallied.
"We were just chasing bad pitches," Surrey said. "And their pitcher was doing a good job of mixing things up."
Another problem was the pitches SGV was chasing.
"We just chased too many balls up," said Torres, who also got a hit from St. Francis graduate Mark Saatzer. "It just doesn't go anywhere here."
A breeze blowing in at Ephrata held up plenty of balls, including two by CV product Troy Mulcahey that went to the warning track, according to Torres.
But a Brennen Salgado shot to open the seventh didn't get hung up, as Salgado, who had doubled earlier, blasted a solo home run to cut the score to 3-1.
Surrey followed with a double and Prasertsit then singled to put runners on the corners. A Jonathan Larson bunt held Surrey at third and advanced Prasertsit to second. An Andrew Medina groundout scored Surrey for a 3-2 tally, but Prasertsit was ultimately stranded at third as the final batter struck out looking on a 3-2 offering.
"[The] only thing we will change is probably our approach at the plate," Surrey said. "It's only pool play and it's the first game, so we have plenty more to go."