COMPTON – A season that lasted exactly 40 games and began in early June came to a conclusion for the Arroyo Seco Saints 19U summer baseball team Saturday evening.
The Saints drive to a first-ever World Series title was halted by the Bayamon Vaqueros of Puerto Rico, 6-3, in the lower bracket finale of the Palomino World Series Tournament at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
Puerto Rico’s victory qualified the isle team to Monday’s championship game at 7 p.m. versus the host Urban Youth Academy squad. Puerto Rico will try to bring home the crown for the first time since Levittown captured the title in 2007.
As for Arroyo Seco, the Saints capped their season with a 33-7 record, while matching the squad’s postseason advancement from last year, which was the best in program history.
The loss was also the second for the Saints versus the Vaqueros, who defeated the Pasadena-based squad with nine locals, 16-4, in five innings Friday.
“I’d love to play Puerto Rico 20 more times because when you play teams that are better than you, they make you play better,” said Saints skipper Aaron Milam, who doubles as head coach at St. Francis. “Every year, the season has ended with a loss and it’s difficult because this team is part of my family.
“I’m definitely satisfied we were able to make it this far and am proud of our accomplishments.”
While Arroyo Seco was more competitive than Friday, the Saints were still victimized by a big second inning.
On Friday, the Vaqueros scored 12 runs on nine hits. A day later, Puerto Rico scored all the offense it needed with four runs on three hits in turning a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead.
What may have made the second inning most difficult is that Arroyo Seco notched two outs before starting pitcher Andy Frakes walked Francisco Sanchez.
The free pass was followed by back-to-back singles, the latter from leadoff batter Christian Padin that scored Sanchez and knotted the game at 1.
The consecutive singles extended the inning for Felipe Rivera, who lofted a ball that carried over the right-field wall for a three-run homer and put Arroyo Seco in a 4-1 hole.
An inning later, Puerto Rico completed its scoring thanks to two errors from the Saints as Arroyo Seco fell behind, 6-2.
The errors were the conclusion of a bad trend for the Saints, who committed four such gaffes Saturday evening.
Yet, despite the mistakes, the Saints still had their chances with perhaps no better look than in the seventh.
Corey Dempster and Chris Devito led off the inning with consecutive singles versus Puerto Rico reliever Kevin Rivera, which put runners on the corners with no outs.
Arroyo Seco’s following batter, JJ Muno, cashed in Dempster with a sacrifice fly to center to bring the Saints within 6-3.
Yet, the run marked the final hurrah from the Saints, whose next two batters registered outs to conclude the season.
Arroyo Seco finished the contest one for nine with runners in scoring position with three runs batted in, with that one hit coming on a run-scoring double from Ryan Dobson in the second that plated Pat Adams and gave Arroyo Seco a brief 1-0 lead.
The Saints also scored in the third when a leadoff double from Dempster was converted into a run on a ground out from Devito that cut Arroyo Seco’s deficit to 4-2.
“This team is everything to me. They have that fighting mentality and I love to be a part of it,” said Adams, a Crescenta Valley High product. “This has been a great experience to be on a team that battles every game and I couldn’t have asked for more.”