PASADENA — Both coaches had to laud the play of Crespi second baseman Vince Leoni when reflecting back on Friday's Mission League game between the St. Francis High and Crespi baseball teams.
St. Francis' Tei Vanderford sliced a blooping line drive that looked like it was going to sail just over Leoni's head at second base, but he made a nice over-the-shoulder catch and quickly doubled up the Golden Knights' runner at second base.
Leoni's play stranded a runner at third and preserved Crespi's one-run lead in the bottom of the fifth. St. Francis wouldn't log a hit the rest of the way, thanks to another great line-drive catch from Leoni in the bottom of the seventh to send the Celts home with the narrow 4-3 victory.
"That was a good play and that was the difference in the baseball game, the guy made two nice plays," said St. Francis interim Coach Aaron Milam, who got a three-for-three day from Jeff Garavaglia.
Crespi Coach Scott Muckey was a little surprised with the result, as his team had to overcome a 3-0 deficit for the win.
"I feel fortunate to win," Muckey said. ""Leoni saved our rear ends on that catch."
Crespi's break came in the form of a St. Francis error that prolonged a three-run third inning.
The Celts loaded the bases with no outs on back-to-back singles from Leoni, Morgan Grisham and a walk to Andre Angel-Bello.
Vanderford, St. Francis' starting pitcher, needed a big play to get out of the jam after hitting Crespi's Daniel Avalos to cut the Golden Knights' lead to 3-1.
It looked like Vanderford, who gave up four hits, two walks, two earned runs and hit a batter in five innings, got what he needed when Crespi's Andy Frakes hit a potential double-play line drive right to the shortstop, who leaped to make the catch and appeared to have it before it fell out of his glove.
No outs were recorded on the play after a throwing error to third. Grisham scored on the play to cut Crespi's deficit to 3-2.
"We had an opportunity to get one or two outs there and we came away with none," Milam said. "That's a big difference for us because we were up, 3-1, there. They score one run the rest of the game and it's a 3-2 [win for us]."
Instead, Crespi evened the score with a run-scoring groundout and Vanderford ended the frame with a strikeout and routine fly ball to left field.
The Celts took their first lead of the game, 4-3, with a two-out rally in the fifth when Avalos singled home Grisham, who reached on a two-out single and advanced to second on a walk.
St. Francis started hot offensively, racking up seven of its nine hits in the first two innings.
The Golden Knights took a 3-0 lead on a three-run second inning, which was sparked by a lead-off infield single from Tom Scheper and an ensuing double from Anders Schraer.
Ryan Garcia scored both runners with a bloop single to center field and came around to score four batters later when Garavaglia singled to right field.
Frakes went the distance for Crespi. He gave up nine hits, hit a batter and recorded two strikeouts in the game.
While the game came down to defense, Milam believes his offense could've ensured the win.
"We go up, 3-0, in the second inning and we're OK with that and we can't be OK with that," Milam said. "This is the Mission League — teams are going to score any time they can. We have to play seven full innings."