PHOTOS: Hoover vs. Glendale boys' baseball
The Nitros appeared en route to a seventh one-run loss this season when the visitors instead rallied for four runs, three coming on the swing of senior outfielder Sean Harris, and stunned playoff aspirant Hoover, 4-1, in Pacific League action.
“I thought to myself, not again, we can’t lose again by one run,” said Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart, whose team finished the season 1-6 in one-run contests. “I thought at times maybe I was too aggressive out there and other times, not enough.
“Then we get that home run and nothing else matters.”
The Nitros’ victory not only secured Glendale (8-16-1, 5-9 in league) the series sweep against its heated archrival, but also damaged the resume of Hoover (12-12, 5-9), which will file for an at-large berth to the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs after tying for fifth in the Pacific League.
Harris turned around what appeared to be another frustrating effort from the Nitros when he crushed a 2-1 fastball over the left-center field fence with two outs in the inning that plated teammates Tyler Lousarian (two for three with a run) and Brandon Keen (two walks and a run) and gave Glendale a 4-1 lead.
Prior to Harris’ blast, the Nitros had been 0 for six with runners in scoring position with one run scored and nine runners stranded.
“I was just looking for a fastball down the middle and I got it,” said Harris, who dropped his bat and raised his arms in celebration almost immediately after making contact. “I knew off the bat that it was gone.
“Throughout my time at Glendale, we’ve just had so many of those types of losses. It was great to get a win.”
Glendale trailed, 1-0, entering the seventh with Hoover ace Fidel Hernandez on the bump.
Nitros freshman Connor Rodriguez led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Ryan Wong.
Then in a somewhat gutsy decision, Rodriguez stole third and then scored the game-tying run on a sacrifice fly from Thaddeus Wilson to right field despite a brilliant throw from outfielder Javier Cisneros that nearly nabbed Rodriguez.
With two outs, Lousarian singled and then Keen walked, which brought up Harris, who had earlier doubled.
“It’s a real tough blow because we would have loved to have finished with a win,” Hoover skipper Brian Esquival said. “I trust Fidel and if I had to do it again, he would be out there. He’s our guy.
“Now we’ll wait to see what CIF says on Monday and hopefully we’ll be playing Tuesday [in the wild-card round].”
Perhaps the lost beneficiary of the home run was Glendale pitcher Jack Porras, who proved economical.
Porras (3-8), a hard-luck loser in a few instances this year, was stout again in allowing one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter on 73 pitches in the complete-game effort.
“I couldn’t lose focus out there, we couldn’t lose focus,” Porras said. “We knew this was our last game, we had to win.”
Hoover kicked off the scoring in the fourth when Cisneros, who was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a single from Ethan Turpin.
Cisneros scored when the next batter, Jonathan Ramos, dropped a safety squeeze that plated Hoover its lone run of the game.
Hoover’s defense and pitching held the lead, including when an 8-6-2 relay from Ramos to Hernandez to catcher Colin Hemingway produced in an inning-ending out in the fifth when Wong was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a double from Wilson.
An inning later, Hernandez relieved Hoover starter Luis Zamora (no runs on three hits through 5 1/3 innings with three strikeouts and five walks) after Glendale loaded the bases with one out.
Hernandez tip-toed out of the jam by inducing a fielder’s choice at the plate followed by a flyout to right.
“Our kids worked hard all year,” Eberhart said. “It’s nice for them to get one.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.