COMPTON — Arroyo Seco Saints Coach Aaron Milam said his team thrives when it plays on emotion after it won its first game facing elimination Saturday.
Milam found out just a few hours later that his team doesn't do well playing angry, as it saw its season end in a 10-0 mercy-rule loss in a much-anticipated and heated rematch with Chinese Taipei in the 2012 Palomino League World Series at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton. The Saints left a total of seven runners on base (five in scoring position), as they went 0 for nine at the plate with runners in scoring position and committed three costly errors in the game.
“I think the frustration compounded,” Milam said. “We let the frustration compound the mistakes... that's obviously not a recipe for success.”
While the loss eliminated Arroyo Seco, which includes several players with ties to St. Francis High, Crescenta Valley or Glendale Community College, from the tournament and ended its season, it couldn't diminish the finest season in its nine-year history. The Saints became Palomino League Southern California and West Zone champions and also won their first two games in the program’s Palomino League World Series history to finish with a 34-6-1 record.
“I told them to keep their heads up,” said Milam, who is also the St. Francis baseball coach. “In the nine years we've been doing this we've had some great teams come through here, but this is by far the best Saints team we've ever had.”
Chinese Taipei will go on to face tournament-host Compton in the championship game at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Milam said most of the Saints used bats up to Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) regulations, despite learning minus-5 (length of the bat in inches minus weight in ounces) bats are legal under tournament rules in their tournament-opener with Chinese Taipei Thursday.
Chinese Taipei won the opener, 17-8, after it was found to be in possession of three illegal bats that were greater than 2 5/8 inches in circumference, which are illegal under tournament rules. Those bats were confiscated and Chinese Taipei Coach Lee Kuo Chiang was suspended for the remainder of the contest, but the 7-0 lead Chinese Taipei had built up over two innings while using the illegal bats wasn't erased per tournament rules, despite Milam's protests.
Milam said he wanted to put the batty drama behind them Saturday.
“When it boils down to it, you can blame the bats, you can blame the umpires, you can blame whatever, but we didn't take care of the baseball,” Milam said of Saturday's game. “I didn't want tonight to be about the bats, I just wanted to play baseball.”
Arroyo Seco's bats got off to a good start in the game, as its leadoff runners were on in each of the first two innings on a David Olmedo-Barrera single and Tei Vanderford double, respectively, but both St. Francis graduates were stranded.
The Saints didn't log another hit in the first, despite Olmedo-Barrera stealing second and advancing to third on a throwing error from the catcher. Vanderford was thrown out at home on a squeeze-bunt attempt from Crescenta Valley's Cameron Silva that rolled hard right to the Chinese Taipei first baseman, who was on the run to nab Vanderford at the plate on a bang-bang play.
The failure to score was made more painful when Chinese Taipei scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the second. Saints starting pitcher Elliot Surrey of CV was in control, getting the first two batters of the frame to fly out to center before Shao Pin Ho lined a single to center.
Surrey looked to have gotten out of the inning unscathed on two different occasions, the first of which coming when he got Chia Ching Lin to hit a slow roller to second base. But an error on the play put runners at first and second, and when Surrey appeared to pick off Lin at first, the umpire called him safe to keep the inning alive.
Shao Wei Chen drew first blood for Chinese Taipei when he lined a single just in front of the right fielder and Hao Wei Chang made it 3-0 with a two-run single to right.
Ho increased the lead to 5-0 with a two-run double just inside the right-field line and into the right-field corner to score two runners who were walked to start the third inning.
Chinese Taipei took a commanding 10-0 lead with five more runs in the bottom of the fourth on just one hit, a leadoff single from Chen. Two batters hit by pitches — inside fastballs, which prompted a warning issued to the Saints dugout from the home-plate umpire — and three Arroyo Seco errors in the inning — two on one play — allowed Chinese Taipei to pull out the 10-0 mercy-rule victory.
The Saints earned the rematch with Chinese Taipei with a walk-off, 5-4, win over the Central Michigan Stars. Crescenta Valley's Troy Prasertsit drove in the game winner with a single to right field, capping a bottom-of-the-seventh rally that included singles from Chris DeVito and Vanderford to set up Prasertsit's game-winning line drive to right field.
It also capped a strong offensive performance from the Saints that included 13 hits. Olmedo-Barrera finished the day four for seven with three stolen bases and Vanderford was four for six.
Milam believed the close call and the emotion that came with it would serve Arroyo Seco well for the rematch with Chinese Taipei, which he said also took on more meaning after Thursday's loss.
“We are the type of team where a tie ball game where emotions are high is good for us,” he said. “We live off emotion, that's a good thing for us.”