All hope of advancing to the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament in Surprise, Ariz., seemed to disappear for the La Crescenta Babe Ruth 14-year-old baseball team after it fell to Westchester, 7-3, in the championship of the Babe Ruth state tournament Sunday at Stengel Field.
Hope was not only reborn, but realized for La Crescenta Coach Marcel Martinez and his team Monday. That’s when he received a phone call from La Crescenta Babe Ruth League President Ralph Tapia after a squad from Southern Utah dropped out of the regional competition.
“They were looking for a team to fill the spot,” Martinez said, “given the fact our district has a good reputation, they invited us, the runner-up.
“[The news] was pretty exciting, it was soon enough that we hadn’t shut it down to the point where everyone was on vacation. It was real quick. I am happy.”
A breaking news email was sent out to the La Crescenta team not long after Martinez received the news Monday.
“It was actually quite a surprise, I didn’t think they were going to chose us. We were all really happy,” La Crescenta’s Orlando Diez said. “I have never had a second chance like that, we’re pretty lucky.”
Like the other 10 teams in the tournament, La Crescenta opens the first four games of the tournament in pool play and will hope to be one of the top two teams in Pool B — which includes Arizona No. 1, Hawaii, Nevada and Southern California No. 1 (Westchester) — to keep its season alive.
After this year, La Crescenta’s Gordon Ingebritson feels a rivalry is brewing between his team and Westchester. Everyone on the squad is gearing up for another shot at the team that knocked it out of the state tournament again this year after it also defeated La Crescenta, 8-0, on Friday.
“We have always wanted to beat them,” Ingebritson said. “They’re well coached and a good team, but if we play our game, get timely hits and play our defense, they’re beatable.”
In Pool A are teams from Central and Northern California, Arizona No. 2, Northern Utah and tournament host Surprise. The top two teams from each pool will begin single-elimination play Aug. 1. The top teams in each pool will face the runner-up from the other side at 9 a.m. with the winners moving onto the championship game at noon the same day.
The regional champion will advance to the Babe Ruth Baseball 14-Year-Old World Series in Moses Lake, Wash., for a tournament that runs Aug. 17-24.
La Crescenta opens with Arizona No. 1 at 11 a.m. Monday. It has a doubleheader slated Tuesday when it faces Hawaii at 5 p.m. and Nevada at 8. On Wednesday, it has a rematch with Westchester, which also defeated La Crescenta, 8-0, on Friday.
“We are looking forward to another shot at Westchester, along with the rest of the teams there,” Martinez said. “This will be a first for [the team], they’ve all pretty much come up through Babe Ruth together and the past few years we’ve lost in state to Westchester.”