Walk-Off Home Run Ends La Verne’s Championship Run

July 29, 2009
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0164Memo to La Verne Little League Parents: Herewith it will no longer be necessary to wash your child’s baseball uniform daily, keep your child out of the pool any longer, buy throat lozenges for yourself, or make up silly excuses as to why you have to leave work early every day.

Playing in its 13th post-season game, the remarkable 12-year-old La Verne All-Star Team was two outs away from reaching the finals of the Southern California North Sub-Division when a fickle baseball started finding holes in the baseball diamond that previously hadn’t existed. After tying the score, 7-7 in the bottom of the sixth, Tustin Western collected back-to-back bloop singles by Eric Patton and Nicole Denoewer before Luke Diradorian blasted a three-run walk-off home run that hugged the left field foul every inch of its winning trajectory.

The 10-7 game winner took a second for La Verne to absorb because until Diradorian’s “shot heard round Encino” it had been La Verne supplying the steady come-from-behind heroics, including in this very same game.

Indeed, after La Verne fell behind 4-0 in the first, following a similar script from just the day before when it was down 6-0 after one inning, La Verne mounted another amazing comeback. It started in the top of the third with a pair of solo home runs from Tanner Diebold and Justin Gomez to cut the deficit in half, 4-2.

In the fifth, La Verne scored five more. The inning had started with Joey Halabrin charging hard down the first base line to force Tustin’s shortstop to throw wildly to first. Kenny Walter sacrificed Halabrin into scoring position. Halabrin eventually scored on a wild pitch to edge La Verne closer, 4-3. Danny Gelalich then followed with a single and Garrett Weiss walked. Diebold slapped a single to drive in Gelalich and knot the score at 4-4. After Robert Peterson popped up, Gomez homered again, this a 3-run shot with Weiss and Diebold aboard, to give La Verne a 7-4 lead.

“Gomez has been dialed in,” Manager Bobby Diebold said. “His dad works with him a lot. When he hits it, he doesn’t just hit, he crushes it. He’s been a staple in the middle part of the line up for us. He’s tough to pitch around. He sees the ball very well and has great bat speed.”

But again it was more than great offense that got La Verne back into the game. After a rocky first, Isaiah Carranza was shutting the door as Peterson had done the day before. La Verne’s defense also rose to the occasion, ending Tustin’s bid for extra runs in the second, third and fourth innings with highlight-reel defensive gems.

In the second with Tustin runners on first and second and no outs, Dylan Doherty laid down a solid sacrifice bunt down the third base that Carranza pounced on, bare-handed and flipped to third for the inning’s first out. The athletic play changed the complexion of the inning and kept Tustin from scoring.

In the third, Tustin loaded the bases with two outs when Sean Childs stroked a sinking line drive into centerfield that a streaking Kenny Walter picked off his shoe tops to end the threat.

In the fourth, Carranza, who had moved over to shortstop after reaching his 85-pitch limit, smoothly gloved a screaming line drive off the bat of Eric Patton to end another Tustin rally.

“All tournament long we played good defense,” Diebold said. “I think 11 out of the 13 games we played flawless defense. These balls hit at this level are hit hard, so you got to make plays.”

In the sixth, the tables finally turned on La Verne. In the top half of the inning, Weiss had doubled and Diebold legged out a single. With two outs and runners on the corners, Tustin elected to pitch to Gomez who had homered in his previous two at bats. On the first pitch, Gomez smoked a fastball to left, but directly at the Tustin left fielder.

This time, Tustin used the momentum-changing catch to mount a La Verne-like rally of its own.

“We’ve been doing this to people,” Manager Bobby Diebold said about Tustin’s spirited comeback. “To be on this side of it, it stinks. But our guys can hold their heads high. It’s tough. There are a lot of tears in the kids’ eyes right now, but they need to understand that there are a lot of kids sitting at home right now. Our guys are fortunate to have gained all this experience over the course of the last month, and this is going to make them better ball players.

“I think as of tonight, going into this game, there were less than a dozen teams for sure and maybe as few as 10 teams in all of California still left playing. These guys should be proud of themselves, and I know they are.

“You know how resilient this team is. They’ll be in the swimming pool tomorrow all having fun, but they’ll all be better ballplayers because of this incredible run of games they just experienced.”

2 Responses to “Walk-Off Home Run Ends La Verne’s Championship Run”

  1. Great job La Verne! Great coverage LaVerneOnline – enjoyed reading your write-ups.

  2. Great job to Bobby, all the coaches, and, especially, all the players. Your represented La Verne well and played your hearts out. Enjoy the rest of summer and good luck to those of you going to Cooperstown!!!

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