Rountree excels in leading Crescenta Valley

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — With each inning, Justin Rountree could feel the pressure of the situation.

The Crescenta Valley Junior Baseball All-Star had two jobs to fulfill — keep his team in the game on the mound and pick up a key hit to support the team and himself — on Monday night during an elimination game in the District 16 Tournament at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields.

Rountree passed both tests.

Rountree delivered a game-winning single in the top of the eighth inning and pitched three scoreless innings in relief to help Crescenta Valley post a 3-2 victory against Foothill.

Crescenta Valley will meet Burbank in the championship game at 5 p.m. today at Tujunga Little League Fields. An if-necessary championship contest could be played Wednesday at a time and place to be determined.

"I had a few little extra butterflies," said Rountree, who singled to right to score Michael Gee. "I knew going up to the plate that I had to put the ball in play and find a hole.

"That motivates me even more. I knew I still had to go out there [in the bottom of the eighth] and shut them down. We had to go out there and battle."

Gee began the eighth with a walk against Foothill starting pitcher Jack Porras, who was removed after reaching the maximum 95-pitch count. Gee then stole second against reliever Justin French. After French struck out the next batter, Rountree, who finished with three hits and scored one run, singled to right to score Gee.

Rountree, a right-hander, had plenty of energy left. He retired the side in order, striking out the final two batters.

"Justin helped keep us in the game," Crescenta Valley manager Chris Sanford said. "Justin lives for pressure."

Crescenta Valley scored twice in the first. Max Meyer gave Crescenta Valley a 1-0 lead with a ground-rule double down the left-field line that scored Robert McNelis, who reached base safely after striking out. An error by the Foothill third baseman made it 2-0.

Foothill had a golden scoring opportunity in the first. It loaded the bases with no outs before McNelis struck out the next batter. McNelis then got a 1-2-3 double play to escape the jam.

Foothill got the first two batters on base in the second, but couldn't convert.

Porras cut the deficit to 2-1 with a run-scoring single with one out in the third that scored French, who led off with a triple. Foothill knotted the game at 2 in the fifth, as Alex Spahr led off with a single and promptly stole second and third before scoring on a bunt single by Nick Ziccardi.

Foothill Coach Dave Miller said his team struggled at times with runners in scoring position.

"We left 11 on base and we had plenty of opportunities to score," Miller said. "We have a young team and they have to learn from their mistakes.

"It was a very good game. jack established himself very well, but we didn't get him enough run support."

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