Taking the hill in the top of the sixth with his team clinging to a one-run lead, pitcher Noah Woodall struck out the side to give La Verne a hard-fought 8-7 victory over Temple City and send his team north for a Divisional playoff date this Saturday at 1 p.m. in Goleta, Calif.
It was an amazing performance by Woodall, who had to face the teeth of the Temple City line-up, including Yugi Secani, who just 24 hours earlier had hit a walk-off home run to give Temple City an improbable 13-12 comeback win after his team had trailed 12-2 in the bottom of the sixth.
After striking out the lead-off batter, Woodall had been instructed by manager Greg Peplin to intentionally walk Secani based on Secani’s offensive fireworks the night before and his single, triple and four RBIs in Wednesday’s nail biter. But after Secani intentionally flailed and missed out the first ball thrown wiide by Woodall, shocking his third base coach, Peplin and his coaches decided to roll the dice and go after Temple City’s big hitter. Secani scraped Woodall’s next pitch foul down the third base line, just missing a double, and then after wasting a pitch, Woodall challenged and whizzed a fast ball by the surprised slugger for strike three.
With two outs, Woodall caught the next batter, Mario Castro, looking at a called third strike, and La Verne’s victory celebration was on, heard from Juanita Street in San Dimas to every pizza parlor in La Verne.
“After he swung at that first pitch, we thought maybe we could get him to chase one,” said La Verne Manager Greg Peplin. “But I was convinced at the beginning of the inning we were going to intentionally walk him.”
La Verne never trailed in the game, thanks to a big four-run outburst in the first, led by RBI singles from Brock Johnson, also La Verne’s starting and winning pitcher, Woodall and Ryan McGlohon.
After Temple City scored one in the second and two in the third to trail by just a run, 4-3, La Verne rallied for a run in the bottom of the third on a triple by Andrew Castro, who later scooted home on a passed ball to put his team up, 5-3.
In the bottom of the fourth, La Verne scored three more runs to stretch its lead to 8-3. Woodall cracked an RBI double and McGlohon also had a one-run single in the frame.
But as Temple City had proved the night before, no lead was safe, especially with the heart of its line-up scheduled to bat. As if on cue, TC sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the fifth, scoring four runs on three walks and four hits, including a two-run triple by Secani.
Although La Verne couldn’t add a couple of insurance runs to pad its 8-7 lead in the bottom of the fifth, it turned out La Verne had more than enough insurance in the right arm of Woodall, who punched out the side and more important a ticket for La Verne to attend the big divisional dance that begins this Saturday in a college town called Goleta, home to the UC Santa Barbara Gouchos.
As La Verne’s 10s started celebrating on the field, parents, extended family and friends were lighting up their iPhones hoping to find a vacant room or campground along Santa Barbara’s famous Gold Coast. A vacation built around Little League! Nothing could be finer.