Arroyo Seco Saints start Palomino World Series a year older, wiser
Baseball: Palomino team feels confident after West Zone Tournament run and is looking to grow from last year's experience.
File Photo: Corey Dempster, left, Troy Prasertsit and the rest of the Arroyo Seco Saints are headed to the Palomino World Series for the second year in a row. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / July 31, 2013)
Even though in both seasons Milam’s Saints clinched West Zone Tournament crowns and earned berths to the Palomino World Series, there are substantial contrasts.
“I think the biggest difference is just having experience in getting to the World Series,” Milam said. “Last year, this was all new for us, for me, we really didn’t know what to expect.”
Arroyo Seco, a Pasadena-based squad which boasts nine local players, opens double-elimination World Series action Thursday at noon on the auxiliary field at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton versus Jakarta, Indonesia, representative of the Pacific Zone.
A victory for Arroyo Seco would vault the Saints into Friday’s bracket action at 7:30 p.m. versus the winner of Central Michigan versus Bayamon, Puerto Rico. A loss would leave Arroyo Seco on the brink of elimination, facing the loser of the aforementioned Central Michigan-Puerto Rico game Friday at 10:30 a.m.
Last year, the Saints were rudely welcomed to the international tournament by Chinese Taipei Taiwan in a 17-8 first-round loss.
The defeat snapped Arroyo Seco’s 15-game winning streak and was the first setback in any 2012 postseason tournament for the Saints, as the team romped to both PONY Southern California and West Zone regional titles.
“We didn’t lose in the zone last year, we breezed through it,” Milam said. “We thought we were going to be able to do the same thing in the World Series and Taipei showed up and they really surprised us.
“We’re not taking anything for granted this year and I think we’re more than prepared with the adversity we’ve faced this year.”
Arroyo Seco recovered from the Taipei loss to defeat both Buenaventura, Puerto Rico (7-1) and Central Michigan (5-4) in the next two second-chance bracket games before again succumbing to the Taiwanese entry, 10-0. Taipei eventually won the World Series with a 5-1 victory over the host Urban Youth Academy Team.
Invincibility isn’t an issue the Saints are talking about this season, as they’ve looked pedestrian at times, having dropped this year’s Southern California title to the Colton Nighthawks, 10-5 , on July 23 at Jackie Robinson Field.
A few days after surrendering their SoCal crown, the Saints were on the verge of losing another title as they were defeated by the San Jose PAL Giants, 3-1, in the first round of the West Zone Tournament on Friday.
Yet, Arroyo Seco found the grit and stomach to endure four straight one-run victories over the Urban Youth Academy (5-4), the Arcadia Astros (4-3) and twice versus the Giants (4-3 and 3-2) to advance to Tuesday’s West Zone championship, where the Saints enjoyed a bit of breather in defeating the South Bay Legacy, 6-3.
“We understand that when it’s your time to take your turn and help the team, you have to do it,” said Saints pitcher Nate Rousey, a Crescenta Valley High product who currently plays for Glendale Community College. “It’s about making good pitches and having key at-bats.”
Rousey was certainly on his game in Tuesday’s finale, tossing a two-hitter through five innings, while keeping the Legacy 0 for nine with runners in scoring position.
In the final two games of the West Zone Tournament, Arroyo Seco pitchers Andy Frakes, Rousey and DJ Milam combined to hold the Giants and Legacy to three-for-18 (.167 average) hitting with runners in scoring position.
Aaron Milam is hoping for similar success with San Marino High product Jeff Bain, who will take the bump in Thursday’s opener.
Bain was effectively wild in his first start against the Giants on Friday, striking out five over three innings and not allowing a run despite surrendering three hits, a walk and a hit batter.
“Our turnaround in this tournament has been all about pitching. Our pitchers have been great,” said Arroyo Seco’s Brandon Caruso, who went three for seven in the Saints’ last two games with a homer, three runs scored and one RBI. “Pitching has been the key for us with Nate, Frakes, DJ Milam, Christian Keamy and the guys. They’ve been clutch and we’ve moved on because of them.”