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Glendale/La Crescenta Crippen wins championship in final game at Stengel Field

GLENDALE — A nostalgic feel filled the air at Stengel Field on Sunday afternoon.

With demolition of the field scheduled to begin this week to start a rebuilding process of the historic venue in Glendale’s Verdugo Park, the community gathered to watch one last game at Stengel Field in its current form.

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In front of a near capacity crowd on a beautiful day, Glendale/La Crescenta Crippen Mortuary and the La Cañada Royals played in the Babe Ruth District 4 Championship game.

Showing superior play in all aspects, Glendale prevailed, 7-2. Had La Cañada been victorious, a deciding second game would have been played thirty minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

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The extra game was not necessary and with no other games scheduled in the foreseeable future, Stengel Field, the 8,600 square-foot stadium built in 1949, is set to close on Wednesday.

“This was special, to play in the last championship game on this field,” Crippen Mortuary Coach Juan Pablo Valdez said. “In 20 years, these kids will understand what it means to play on this field.”

La Cañada’s interim manager, Joseph Kim, echoed the sentiments.

“It’s a privilege to play on this beautiful field,” said Kim, who took over the managerial duties for John Vrsalovich, who was recovering from a kidney stone operation. “We’re happy, honored and privileged. ... We play at La Cañada High School so it’s rare for us and it was a real treat.”

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Unfortunately for Kim, his team was plagued by costly errors in the memorable contest.

The Royals struck first, scoring a run in the bottom of the first thanks to a Matt Winnek double. However, they would not add to the total until the sixth inning when Winnek singled home Alex Salvador. It was too little, too late for the squad based in La Cañada.

Meanwhile, Crippen Mortuary, backed by a strong pitching performance by Xavier Dubon, responded quickly and scored seven unanswered runs, including two in the second inning.

Ivan Valdez’ run-scoring triple in the top of the second inning tied the game at 1. He was then able to score on an error. The lead would not be relinquished.

Dubon, who allowed four hits in five innings, cruised from there.

The offense tacked on two more runs in the fourth, highlighted by a double off the bat of Carl Dinger, which plated Oscar Perez.

Another pair of runs crossed home plate in the sixth, fueled by singles from Trent Lousararian and Nate Burke, to cap the scoring.

La Cañada’s defense hurt itself with costly errors, resulting in four unearned runs.

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“It just wasn’t our day, but give credit to Crippen, they hit the ball hard,” Kim said. “They had a few errors; we had a lot of errors. I think it would have been a closer game if it had been more evenly played but congrats to them.

“I told the boys that they’ve had a good playoff run. We’ve seen their best and today just wasn’t it.”

La Cañada sprayed two singles to start the sixth, forcing Juan Pablo Valdez to pull his starter for Lousararian, who promptly received a double play from the first batter he faced and then struck out the next to stop the threat.

The hurler gave up a single in the seventh before closing it out, clinching the victory.

“Our pitching was good, it kept us in the game,” Juan Pablo Valdez said. “Our starter gave us five and our closer closed it out. On the base paths, we were able to take advantage of hitting and running. They had a couple of errors that were key in our rally.”

The demolition to Stengel Field has been in talks since 2011, the year the stadium’s locker rooms, restrooms and offices were dismantled, due to water damage. In 2013, 700 of the approximately 1,000 stadium seats were covered and deemed unsafe.

Home of the Crescenta Valley High baseball team, Glendale Community College baseball team, as well as Little League and Babe Ruth programs and non-sporting events such as high school graduations, the reconstruction will finally begin in June and is expected to wrap up in August.

On Sunday, Spiro Psaltis, who called the game, reflected on the field’s history as a somber crowd consisting of former players, listened. Psaltis and La Crescenta Babe Ruth League President Ralph Tapia, among others, were recognized for their many years of contributions.

The effort to raise funds will continue, in hopes of avoiding aluminum portable bleachers and preserving the look and feel of Stengel by the time next spring rolls around.

For more information on The Stengel Field Foundation, visit www.savestengel.org.

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