Arroyo Seco Saints continue dominant regional play

PASADENA — Regional play has become an annual summer feast for the Arroyo Seco Saints baseball team.

That trend continued when the Saints competed in the PONY SoCal Palomino Regional Playoffs at Jackie Robinson Field against Hart in the second of two games to complete pool play.

“This is how the region has been the last three or four years… it’s a little lopsided in pool play,” Saints Coach Aaron Milam said.

PHOTOS: Arroyo Seco Saints vs. Hart Palomino in Pony League Baseball

The Saints had no trouble dispatching their opponents from Santa Clarita, dominating every facet of the contest to claim a 12-0 victory over Hart in a game shortened to five innings via the mercy rule.

Arroyo Seco (24-4) scored at least one run in every inning and clobbered 13 hits, six of the extra-base variety.

JJ Muno, formally of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High and headed to UC Santa Barbara, led the way for the Saints with four runs batted in.

Muno drove in the first two of his team’s three second-inning runs with a two-out double to the gap in left-center field. He drove in his third and fourth runs in the Saints’ six-run fourth inning with another two-out hit, a triple over the center fielder’s head, to score Carter Hodge and Brandon Caruso, both of whom will be teammates at Pepperdine next fall.

“It was a fun game, lots of hits,” Muno said. “It’s good to be part of this.”

Corey Dempster, who is headed to USC in the fall on scholarship after graduating from Loyola, joined the hit parade with a first-inning triple and followed that with run-scoring doubles in the second and fourth innings. Hodge joined Dempster with two RBI. Chris Devito got things started for Arroyo Seco with a double in the first inning to drive in Dempster for the game’s first run.

“Dempster hit the ball well. Muno hit the ball well. Those two, for instance, are guys that come out of the Mission League and play good baseball all year around,” said Milam, who also coaches St. Francis High, “and they’re both going to big Division I schools to play next year. So, that’s the kind of stuff you want to see out of those guys.”

Saints starting pitcher Jeff Bain of San Marino High faced the minimum number of batters over his three innings to pick up the win. Hart starting pitcher Derrick Spriggs bounced a single up the middle with one out in the first inning for his team’s lone hit. Three pitches later, Spriggs was erased on a double play started by shortstop Mitchell Gallagher.

“I just filled the zone and let them make the mistakes,” said Bain, who struck out four.

Bain, who’s going into his senior year at San Marino and yet to chose a college after withdrawing his commitment to UC Irvine on July 8, walked the first Hart batter in the third. That runner was erased as well when he was picked off at first base.

“What works for Jeff is that he now has something to prove again,” Milam said. “Cal Poly was out here and Oregon is in town to see him. [UC Riverside] offered him yesterday. He’s got something to prove now trying to earn himself another scholarship and be ready to go, so he’s pretty dialed in.”

In total, three Saints pitchers — Bain, Nate Rousey and Nick Shur — held Hart to one hit and faced just one batter over the minimum while the trio combined for eight strikeouts.

With the two victories in as many games in pool play after the Saints beat Ocean View, 14-1, Arroyo Seco moves on in the tournament with a game Monday.

“We want to win,” Muno said of the Saints’ expectations going forward. “We want to go all the way to the World Series and the team we have definitely has the capability to do that.”

Monday’s opposition and time is still unsettled as final qualifying positions will be determined by the results of games taking place through the reminder of the weekend.

“Should be good games going forward from here,” Milam said. “We have to play someone that qualifies on Sunday. We don’t know if we are the one or two seed.”

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