First published in the July 16 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
After a dominating performance in the first game of the Division 16 Little League championship series, Crescenta Valley held off Jewel City, 10-8, last Saturday afternoon in the 12-and-under division to capture the tournament title.
CV’s Jackson Chung led off the top of the first inning with a single off Jewel City’s Nathaniel Palmer. Logan Mumenthaler and Eben Rodriguez followed with back-to-back hits to load the bases. One out later, Joaquin Castro walked to bring in the game’s first run. Riley Brinton then doubled home a pair and Robert Pham hit a sac fly, giving CV a four-run lead before Jewel City came to the plate.
Jewel City’s Sam Vega led off the bottom of the inning with a fly ball to right that found the grass for two-base error and quickly scored on Jacob Vangor’s double to trim the deficit to 4-1.
In the second inning, CV’s Eli Fong reached on an error, Oliver Sherman walked, Mumenthaler loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice, and Ben Kim walked to force in a run. But Jewel City reliever Vangor struck out the next two hitters to escape the bases-loaded jam.
CV’s Sherman worked a quiet bottom of the second, and after the Jewel City defense turned a nice double play in the top of the third, Jewel City was back at it on offense. Vega reached on a single and moved over to third on wild pitches. Andrew Miller relieved for CV, and JCLL’s Luke Shacker tried to lay down a squeeze bunt. Miller fielded and flipped to catcher Brinton to cut down Vega at the plate on a stellar play.
Jacob Vangor singled home Shacker before Miller snagged a line drive to end the inning. After three innings of play, CV held a 5-2 lead.
Leading off the fourth, Sherman walked and two runners later scored on Rodriguez’s single. After stealing second and moving to third on a throwing error, Rodriguez looked poised to score. Kim lined a ball to the shortstop, who grabbed it and threw to third for Jewel City’s second double play in as many innings.
The momentum had clearly turned in Jewel City’s favor, as it came up in the bottom of the frame. Xavier Graham led off with a double, followed by three consecutive walks to Keller Barefoot, Rollie Cherwick and Tyler Freeman. Rodriguez was summoned as a relief pitcher, but Jewel City wasn’t anywhere close to being done. Nicky Gary and Vega each singled home a run, and Shacker hit a sacrifice fly to left — nearly another hit if not for a sliding catch by CV’s Eli Fong. Jacob Vangor singled home another before Mateo Marinovich knocked in yet another on a fielder’s choice. All told, Jewel City rallied to put up six in the frame after batting around to take an 8-6 lead.
With one out in the top of the fifth, CV’s Brinton singled. Andrew Miller followed with an infield single of his own and Eli Zamorano walked to load the bases. But after Jewel City reliever Graham recorded a strikeout, things looked bleak for CV. Pinch-hitter Chung quickly hit a grounder that found the hole between third and short, tying the game 8-8. Mumenthaler hit the next pitch for a two-run double to right center, giving CV a 10-8 lead.
Needing a rally in the final inning, Jewel City’s Vega led off the bottom of the sixth with his third hit of the day. After a fielder’s choice cut down the lead runner, Vangor doubled to put the tying run in scoring position. Rodriguez struck out the next batter, and CV elected to intentionally walk slugger Graham, who already had a double on the day.
With the game on the line, Rodriguez struck out the final batter with the bases loaded to clinch the district title for CV.
“It was an exciting game that came down to the final pitch, with both squads showing immense heart and leaving everything on the field,” CVLL coach Mike Miller said. “A great game played by Jewel City, and the kids should all be proud for the way they fought until the final pitch.”
With the victory, CVLL keeps its dreams alive of possibly reaching the ultimate destination of Williamsport, Pennsylvania — the mecca of youth baseball and home of the Little League World Series. Crescenta Valley opens the sectional tournament and will play Quartz Hill Little League on Saturday, July 16, at 12:30 p.m. at Montrose Field.