La Crescenta Babe Ruth baseball team stopped in Pacific Southwest Regionals by familiar Westchester foe

Ever since the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament schedule was unveiled, it was Wednesday’s game that loomed largest for the La Crescenta Babe Ruth 14-year-old baseball team.

La Crescenta was a late addition to the regional lineup, following another team dropping out, after the locals lost a pair of games to Westchester to finish runner-up in the Southern California State All-Star Tournament.

The locals got one more shot at Westchester in their final pool-play game of the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament at Surprise Stadium in Arizona. Despite battling back and loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning, the third time was not the charm for La Crescenta in a 10-5 loss.

“I think they were all very similar games,” La Crescenta Coach Marcel Martinez said of his team’s three meetings with Westchester this year. “The main thing was we made errors to give them early leads in all three games and we battled back in the last two [games] and came up short. The thing that’s so tough is it’s hard to manage when you’re behind early and you just have to let the kids hit away. It ties your hands, you can’t steal or do any hit and runs, that’s been their advantage.”

La Crescenta, which had fallen to Westchester by scores of 8-0 and 7-3 in state competition, needed to win to force a tiebreaker between itself, Westchester and Arizona No. 1 (Hamilton).

If La Crescenta scored four more runs, it would have eliminated Westchester from the tournament in favor of Hamilton according to the tournament’s run-differential rules.

Instead, Hawaii and Westchester move on in Pool B. Hawaii will face Arizona No. 2 (Somerton) at 9 a.m. Thursday, while Westchester will meet Northern California (Tri-Valley) at the same time. The winners will square off for the championship three hours later.

A walk and error helped pave the way for two first-inning Westchester runs Wednesday. Garrett Solliday (three hits, two runs batted in) had another strong game for La Crescenta and it started with a two-run single that tied the game in the bottom of the first.

Westchester rattled off the next five runs to take a 7-2 lead. La Crescenta pulled within three runs on a two-run double from Gordon Ingebritson (two doubles, single and three RBI) in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Westchester padded its lead, but was still given a scare when La Crescenta loaded the bases without an out in the bottom of the seventh. A double-play grounder scored a run, but zapped all of La Crescenta’s momentum.

While Martinez was pleased with his team’s effort, it still dealt with a problem that’s plagued it the whole tournament.

“Defense was a little bit better overall, but we still had four errors today and that just kills you at this level,” he said.

La Crescenta didn’t get off to a strong start in Arizona. It opened with an 11-1 loss to Arizona No. 1 (Hamilton) Monday and dropped the first half of a Tuesday doubleheader with Hawaii, 4-1. It kept hope of moving onto Thursday’s single-elimination championship bracket with a 13-6 victory over Nevada.

“It was a real good learning experience both for the kids and the coaches,” Martinez said of the regional tournament. “You think the level of baseball you play locally is as good as it gets, and you go out to a regional tournament like this and you’re exposed to see these teams that are very good. We need to get better as an area as far as building up these types of teams. We need to get better to compete at this level.”

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