LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Anthony Mizrahi of the La Cañada High baseball team watched as Village Christian's first baseman ran to catch a high pop fly in foul territory that came off his bat.
The ball fell two feet in front the Crusader, who got a late jump on the ball.
"It was a second chance, another life," Mizrahi said.
Mizrahi made it count. He sat on an 0-1 curveball and drove it over the left fielder's head and off the fence, scoring the Spartans' Jacob Yonan and Derek Georgino, who notched consecutive one-out singles, to deliver a La Cañada victory, 4-3, in the eighth inning.
"[This win is] huge because what we've been doing all year is scoring early and not scoring late," Mizrahi said. "Today we just didn't want to give up and we put up runs in the end. We weren't going to go down in the end, we weren't going to let that happen."
The walk-off two-run double saved the Spartans from another late collapse as they took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh and saw it erased on a run-scoring single from the Crusaders' Josh Rolls that scored Chapin Yoder, who reached when he was hit by a pitch to start the inning and advanced to third on a throwing error.
"We've had several of those moments in the late innings where we needed a hit and didn't get it," La Cañada Coach Dennis Ballard said. "Today it happened so maybe that is a sign of hey that's how we do it. Let's not give up on ourselves, we can make the timely hit.
"Maybe we can get it in that special memory bank back there to tell us we can do it again and again."
The walk-off also delivered on Ballard's faith in two of his best hitters, Mizrahi and Georgino.
"He told us that we're two of the best hitters in our league and in the area and we needed to step up and produce like our potential says that we should," Mizrahi said. "We took that to heart and we weren't going to let him down anymore."
Mizrahi also turned in a fine performance on the mound. He recorded nine strikeouts and gave up just two runs on three hits, three walks, three hit by pitches in seven innings.
The Crusaders put themselves in a position to win in the top of the eight, starting the inning with back-to-back doubles from Tyler McGinnis and Jessie Hanckel, whose double scored McGinnis for a 3-2 lead.
It all just set the stage for Mizrahi's heroics, but none of that would have been possible without the clutch two-out hitting from La Cañada sophomore Justin Lewis, who played in his first game of the season after sitting out the first 14 games with a cracked bone in his elbow.
"We put the lineup together and Justin wasn't in it, but then I remembered his dad called me two days ago to tell me he's cleared [to hit], so I thought, what the heck he needs to be out there," Ballard said.
Ballard didn't regret his decision as Lewis drove home the Spartans' first two runs with two-out RBI singles and was three for three with a stolen base on the day.
Georgino, who was three for four in the game, started the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff double and advanced to third with no outs as a Village Christian pickoff attempt sailed into the outfield.
Two consecutive strikeouts nearly stranded Georgino, but Lewis cashed him in with a line-drive single to left field to tie the game at 1.
Georgino led the sixth off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Lewis was asked to deliver with two outs again after a La Cañada strikeout and he did just that, lining another pitch into left field to give his team a 2-1 lead.
"[Lewis] did a great job, that was clutch hitting in the middle of the game when maybe nobody is watching even," Ballard said. "You got two outs and you can do that, that's fantastic."
Village Christian got on the board first in the top of the fourth on a hit by pitch, hit and two passed balls, one of which brought home McGinnis (two for three).