La Verne Rally Falls Short in 10-7 Loss to El Monte American

July 18, 2010
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Mitch Johnson pitched into the seventh, giving La Verne a chance to win.

Mitch Johnson pitched into the seventh, giving La Verne a chance to win.

Benefiting from a couple of big bookend innings — the first and the last where they scored four runs each — El Monte American held on to defeat the La Verne Senior all-stars 10-7 at New Temple Park in South El Monte on Saturday night.

Trailing 10-4 in the bottom of the seventh, La Verne mounted one-last rally, scoring three runs and loading the bases and bringing the winning run to the plate before El Monte American closer Gio Morales finally nailed the door shut.

La Verne fell behind early after Steven Camberas blasted a two-out grand slam off La Verne starter Mitchell Johnson. Johnson should have already been sitting in the dugout but an error kept the inning alive.

“I think we were our own worst enemy tonight,” said La Verne manager DeMonaco. “The kids came out, they were a little flat, a little tense, and it took them a couple innings before they finally loosened up and finally started playing our ballgame.

“Mitch threw a great game,” DeMonaco added. “We expected that from him. He’s been one of our better pitchers all year. He’s been very consistent. Defensively, we didn’t help him that first inning. We gave them an extra out. He made one bad pitch.”

La Verne catcher Tyler Heslop’s lead-off solo blast in the bottom of the second got La Verne on the board. La Verne might have gotten more. After the bomb, El Monte American starter Chris Corona surrendered a pair of walks, but then the southpaw buckled down, getting a ground-out and a pick-off at second to escape any further damage.

El Monte American came back with single runs in the third and fifth to increase their margin to 6-1. In the bottom of the fifth, however, La Verne used a pair of walks and a ground-rule scoring double by Anthony Gonzalez and a two-run single by Anthony Williams to edge within two runs of El Monte, 6-4.

In the bottom of the sixth, still trailing, 6-4, Scott Salsman was hit by a pitch and Heslop walked to lead off the inning, but Morales, who had come on in relief, was backed by a double play and a strike-out to keep La Verne off the board.

In perhaps the turning point of the game, La Verne’s Johnson gave up a lead-off double to Morales in the top of the seventh. The ball caromed up and caught Salsman around the eye. Amazingly, after a brief stoppage of play, Salsman came into pitch and immediately got El Monte American’s No. 3 hitter, Rafael Garcia, to ground back to him for an easy put-out. Then Salsman battled some wildness and before he could get back his blazing fastball back on track, El Monte American scored four runs to go up 10-4.

Anthony Williams was an imposing force on offense, banging out a single and double and driving in four runs.

Anthony Williams was an imposing force on offense, banging out a single and double and driving in four runs.

“That ball in the eye certainly didn’t help our cause,” DeMonaco said.

The situation for La Verne looked even worse in the bottom of the seventh, when the first two batters it sent to the plate struck out, leaving the team with one last out. But with its back to the wall, La Verne responded. Lead-off hitter David Vera nursed a walk, Gonzalez doubled, Williams doubled in two runs, Salsman walked, Heslop rifled a single to left for another RBI. DeMonaco walked. Suddenly, the score was El Monte American 10, La Verne 7, and La Verne had the bases loaded and CJ Griffin approaching the plate. One swing and the comeback would be complete. Abetting La Verne’s cause, Griffin had homered in the last game, and certainly had the pop and game presence to do it again.

This time, the baseball percentages prevailed. After taking two fastball strikes, Griffin lofted a high fly ball to right that the right fielder settled under for the third and final out.

La Verne and El Monte American will do it all over again on Monday night at New Temple Park, but this time La Verne expects to be ready from the first pitch, intent on continuing its play-off march.

“We’ve done it before,” DeMonaco said. Against Glendora, we lost the first one, 6-1, then the kids battled back and took the next two to win it.

“If it’s not one kid picking it up, it’s another one,” he added. “We’ve been solid up and down the line-up. Come next game, I think you’ll see another team.”

La Verne players assembled outside the dugout before the start of play.

La Verne players assembled outside the dugout moments before the start of play.


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