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True Grit and a Gust of Wind Carry Damien to Clutch 2-1 Win Over Glendora

April 21, 2010
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Damien's Bobby Oatman entered the game hitting .529.

Damien's Bobby Oatman entered the game hitting .529.

 

The Damien Spartans snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning on a solo opposite-field home run by Fernando Larez and held on to defeat the Glendora Tartans, 2-1, at Tom Carroll Stadium in La Verne on Wednesday afternoon. Both teams, now 4-2 in the Sierra League, square off again on Friday in Glendora.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

The game was a nail-biter from start to finish, featuring outstanding pitching and stellar defense. Glendora pushed across a run in the top of the second off Damien starter Nick Amrhein (6-0). Glendora’s John Alexander laced a double on a hanging curve to start the inning, advanced to third on a long fly-out by Kyle Layton and scored on a sacrifice fly by Glendora starting pitcher Jacob Cage.

Meanwhile, Cage was breezing on the mound until he ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth. Damien’s Adam Young singled to lead off the inning, but was thrown out trying to go from first to third on a single by Erik Lewis, with Lewis moving up to second. Catcher Jorge Ortega singled up the middle to drive in Lewis and knot the score at 1-1.

Although Amrhein let Glendora’s lead-off hitter reach base in five of the first six innings, he got stingy after that, using a pick-off in the third, a double play in the fourth and his own legs in the fifth to wiggle out of trouble. With pinch-runner J.T. Riley on second with one out, Amrhein deftly fielded a comebacker by Josh Luevanos, then turned and ran down Riley who was in no-man’s land between second and third. He then struck out Joseph Woodward to end the threat.

“That’s the character Nick has,” said Damien head coach Albert Leyva. “You’re going to give up some runs, or some hits and some walks, some hit batters, that’s baseball, but it doesn’t discourage him. He doesn’t get shaken up.”

Fernando Larez, No. 9, catches some high fives after connecting on a solo home in the bottom of the fifth that turned out to be the game winner.

Fernando Larez, No. 9, catches some high fives after connecting on a solo home in the bottom of the fifth that turned out to be the game winner.

In the fifth, Larez hit the go-ahead home run, giving Damien a 2-1 lead, but the game was far from over, especially given Glendora’s 13-1-1 record going into play. The Tartans’ Clinton Harwick promptly singled to lead off the top of the sixth, sending Amrhein to the showers and bringing in Jack Hedges to face No. 3 hitter Jacob Smigelski. With Harwick running, Smigelski hit a shot down the third base line just under the outstretched glove of a diving Joe Chavez for a stand-up double. With runners on second and third and the corners up, Hedges induced clean-up hitter Joe Winterburn to ground to Chavez, who held the runners and threw to first for the inning’s first out.

With first base still open and the hot-hitting Alexander, who had already doubled and singled in two trips, due up, Damien Manager Albert Leyva called on left-hander Antonio Gonzales to face him, rather than issue him a free pass and load the bases to try to get a force out or double play. Leyva’s strategy worked. Gonzales got Alexander to pop out to Chavez at third, then he came right back and got Layton to ground to short to end the inning.

“When you have the personnel to make a move like that, it makes it a lot easier as a head coach,” said Leyva moments after congratulating his team on their clutch win. “We knew we had our lefthander in the bullpen and that he was ready to come in.”

While the wind was slightly blowing out to left, Leyva wasn’t about to give Mother Nature all the credit on Larez’s game-winning blast in the bottom of the fifth.

“That home run was a combination of things,” Leyva said. “He’s got good power. He was looking middle away, and he went with that pitch, and he’s such a strong kid that he can power-fade that. And so he stuck to his hit plan, and he succeeded this time. That’s just hat’s off to him.”

Leyva didn’t see the victory as a must win. Winning the tough Sierra League is not the team’s ultimate goal.

“Ideally, you want to win league, but the main thing is that you get a chance to play in the playoffs,” Leyva said. “Usually, in this league, they’ll take one through three, and sometimes they take four, and as we saw last year, our No. 4 team went all the way to the semi-finals.

“That’s our whole thing,” Leyva added. “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish and hopefully, we’ll keep getting better every game and if we do that, good things will happen.”

On Wednesday, good things happened for Damien.

Fitness Results of San Dimas and Upland is the home run hitter’s choice. Give them a call to help step up your game at 909.305-0188 or 909.608.1780.

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