It was a long day at the ballpark for the San Gabriel Valley All-Stars, but at the end, it was a productive one.
Following a defeat to start the afternoon, the SGV All-Stars won the nightcap against Heartwell of Long Beach, 9-1, on Sunday to win the Babe Ruth 18-and-under Southern California Regional at Stengel Field.
“Even though we lost the first game, which we thought we could win, we were still confident; we knew we had a great team,” said SGV first baseman Adrian Damla (Crescenta Valley).
The 9-1 victory came on the heels of Jonathan Hopkins twirling six innings of one-run ball, while getting plenty of run support, led by Blake Barry, who had two doubles, four runs batted in and two runs scored.
“No greater feeling than a pitcher getting run support,” Hopkins said.
The game was also of some historical significance as it marked the final tournament contest played at Stengel Field before the stadium is set to be demolished to start a renovation process in September.
SGV began the two-team, double-elimination tournament Saturday night with a 5-0 win on the strength of a stellar performance on the mound from Brian Gadsby (Crescenta Valley), who threw 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball.
But in the first game Saturday, Heartwell got out to a big seven-run lead before SGV rallied to tie it only to give up two runs thanks to three errors that led to the 9-7 loss. In the second game, it was SGV that ran out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back en route to Modesto, where SGV will begin play in the Babe Ruth Pacific Southwest Regional on Thursday at 2 p.m. against Sacramento.
“We’re all excited,” said Damla, who was two for four with a pair of runs batted in during the second game. “There’s great teams out there that’ve been playing together all summer and we’re a new team, but we feel great. We like our chances.”
Moving on to Modesto was put into a bit of question to start Sunday.
San Gabriel Valley gave up seven runs on 10 hits over the first three innings.
Looking to be headed to a resounding loss, SGV, which is coached by Crescenta Valley High Coach Phil Torres and his Falcons coaching staff, began climbing back in the third inning.
SGV finally got to Heartwell starter Jake Harris and did so in a big way. Joe Terres (Crescenta Valley) began the inning with a walk and Alex Briggs followed suit. Harris, who was perfect through the first two innings, was then touched for the first SGV hit when Kevin Amezquita ripped a triple to right-center field to cut the score to 7-2. Amezquita then scored on a wild pitch. Nicholas Carino followed with a double and scored on an error to cut the deficit to 7-4.
An Amezquita walk, Carino single and Raul Camas (Glendale Community College) walk began the fifth to load the bases for SGV. A sacrifice fly by Justin Cage plated Amezquita before a Damla bad-hop single scored Carino to put the score at 7-6. Then Damla slid under a tag at second allowing Camas to swipe home to tie the game.
But just when all the momentum seemed to be in favor of SGV, Heartwell made use of three errors, both for multiple bases, that led to two runs in the sixth to turn the game.
Any ill effects for SGV didn’t carry over into the second game some 30 minutes later.
“First game was kind of rough, second game I think we really came together as a team,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins, who also had a pair of hits in the second game, threw six innings, allowing just two hits, one unearned run and three walks, while striking out six.
He worked his way around a first-inning walk and second-inning single before recording a 1-2-3 third that was the precursor to a two-run third that put SGV up, 9-0, and ultimately salted the game away.
“I felt like I was a little bit slow at the start, because it was a long day,” Hopkins said. “Then I got going later.”
The offense had no hesitation to its production, though.
Amezquita and Carino began the bottom of the first with consecutive walks before Barry doubled down the third-base line with one away for a 1-0 lead. Cage then added a sacrifice fly before Damla clutched up with a two-out single the other way through third base.
Singles by Hopkins, Carino and Camas (two hits, two runs) loaded the bases in the second before Barry cleared them with a double deep to the fence in left field. Leading 6-0, SGV tacked on another run when Damla singled in Barry.
A Carino sacrifice fly scored pinch-runner Nick Sergi before Camas pulled a towering shot over the right-field fence in the third to conclude the SGV scoring.
Thereafter, though Heartwell scored a run off an error in the fourth, the game dragged on with a feel that it was already long decided, as Heartwell seemed more concerned with chirping at the umpire than anything else. Following a warning to the Heartwell dugout in the fifth, a Heartwell batter was ejected for arguing a strike call in the sixth. In the seventh, the umpire warned the dugout again, telling the coaching staff to get its players in line.
The game ended without any further histrionics, as Joe Torres threw a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts to officially punch his team’s ticket to Modesto.
“We put the ball in play. We just kept it simple and runs scored,” Damla said. “You just have to keep playing. We just wanted to stay focused in the game and that’s what we did.”