Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Nick Sweet watches his hit fall in shallow centerfield for a two-run pinch-hit single to help Madera to a 5-2 victory over Santa Maria in the semifinals Monday in the Central California State Babe Ruth championships at Mel Parker Field.
Pinch-hit gives Madera a semifinal victory
Less than 24 hours after the Madera 14-year-old Babe Ruth All-Star team advanced to the Central California State Babe Ruth championship game, they were basically beaten before they picked up a bat.
Bakersfield Northwest scored four times, all unearned, in the top of the first inning and put Madera in a hole they couldn’t dig out of Tuesday at Mel Parker Field. Bakersfield took a 10-0 lead before Madera got on the scoreboard and held on for a 13-7 victory to avenge last year’s state championship loss.
Madera defeated Bakersfield NW in the 13-year-old All-Star State championship game last year in Bakersfield.
“I said from the beginning they were going to have a target on their back,” manager Frank Borges said. “Even teams that come here and they don’t win the title, just beating us is the title for them. I don’t believe we had the intensity or were as hungry as they were last year.”
Madera committed eight errors in the championship game, which led to six unearned runs. Madera led the eight teams in errors in the tournament with 19.
“Sometimes you think you’re too relaxed in your home place, Borges said. “You need to be challenged sometimes.”
From the fourth inning on, Madera outscored Bakersfield 5-3, but the 10-run deficit was too much to overcome.
“It’s kind of difficult when you’re down by that many runs,” Borges said. “The one thing I didn’t want to do, and I tried to encourage the boys, was not to let it be a 10-run rule game. At that point, that was my frame of mind. We were competitive until the end and that was important for them, the coaches and the fans.”
Bakersfield NW 13, Madera 7
Madera went into its rematch with Bakersfield Northwest intent on revenge after Sunday’s 11-inning lost sent them into the loser’s bracket.
However, before Madera could bat, Bakersfield NW took a 4-0 lead and extended the lead to 10-0 before crusing to a 13-7 win.
Michael Monreal took the loss on the mound. He allowed three hits over two innings, but his defense let him down. He allowed five runs in his two innings, but none were earned.
Matthew DeFranco tossed 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief. Murf Gray also tossed a perfect inning. Both players, along with Brian Monges, earned All-Tournament honors.
However, Madera had trouble with the sidearm action of Bakersfield NW pitcher Dylan Smith. He tossed five innings. He struck out three and allowed five runs, three earned and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after picking up his second victory.
Gray, Isaiah Monge and Monges led Madera with two hits each.
After a lead-off single to open the game, Austin Charles hit a foul ball popup, which was dropped. He followed with a grounder to third. The throw to get the runner at second was in the dirt for an error and Bakersfield had runners at second and third.
The next batter singled up the middle and Bakersfield had a 2-0 lead.
Monreal got a lineout and a groundout with a runner at third. A single up the middle drove in the third run of the inning. After a walk, Bakersfield hit a ball down the left field line that was dropped for another error and took a 4-0 lead.
Madera came back with one out in the bottom of the first. David Ramirez, Gray and Monge singled to load the bases, but a double play ended the threat.
A Bakersfield lead-off walk followed by a fielding error and a walk loaded the bases in the second. A sacrifice fly drove in another run for a 5-0 lead.
Smith struck out the side in the bottom of the second and Bakersfield got to relief pitcher Ramirez in the third.
A walk, single and hit batter loaded the bases. After a strikeout, Madera tried to get a force at third, but a wild throw allowed the run to score and another from second base.
Bakersfield’s lead-off batter hit a double to right-centerfield to drive in another run. A single drove in two more for a 10-0 lead.
Madera got help and showed signs of life in the third, the beginning of four straight innings scoring for the home team.
Monges led off the inning with a single. David Zavala put down a swinging bunt and Monges reached second on a throwing error. After a groundout moved the runners over 90 feet, Gray reached on an error to score Monges. Monge flew out to left and Zavala came in to score for Madera’s first two runs of the game.
Bakersfield scored an unearned run in the fourth on an error, a single and another error for an 11-2 lead.
Ivin Ponce led off the fourth for Madera with a single up the middle. Evan Candelaria drew a walk. After a popout, Monges drew a walk to load the bases.
Zavala singled up the middle to score Ponce. Ramirez reached on a fielder’s choice as Monges was forced at third. Candelaria scored on the play. Gray drew a walk to load the bases again, but a flyout ended the inning.
Bakersfield added two more runs in the fifth off relief pitcher Nick Sweet. Sweet walked the first batter and hit the second he saw. After he struck out the next batter, Sweet walked another to load the bases. A wild pitch scored another run and a walk re-loaded the bases.
DeFranco came in and allowed a sacrifice fly to right. After a walk to the next batter, he got a groundout back to him to end the inning. DeFranco got a 1-2-3 sixth inning and Gray tossed a 1-2-3 seventh, getting a double play after Madera’s eighth error of the game.
Madera added a run in the fifth with two outs in the inning. Candelaria started the rally with a single up the middle. He went to third on a bloop double by DeFranco. Monges singled to center to drive in Candelaria to cut the lead to 13-5.
Madera added two more runs in the sixth. Ramirez reached on an error. After Gray walked, Monge singled to load the bases. Monreal drew a walk to force in Ramirez and Ponce grounded out to drive in Gray. A fly out and a popout ended the threat.
Madera put two runners on in the seventh when Zavala reached on an error and Gray singled, but a fly ball to left-center was caught even though Bakersfield’s left fielder and centerfielder collided to end the game.
Madera 5, Santa Maria 2
Madera headed into the loser’s bracket semifinal game after an 11-inning heartbreak over Bakersfield NW.
Meanwhile, Santa Maria kept its hopes alive with two wins Sunday after losing the first game of the tournament in the 10th inning Friday.
“That Santa Maria team was a special team for me to watch,” Borges said. “They lost at the end of their first game. They battled back and battled back to face us in the semifinals.”
Madera’s pitching staff of Monge, Monges and DeFranco held Santa Maria to just five hits despite just one strikeout. They held the Santa Maria middle of the order bats (No. 3, No. 4, No. 5) to just one hit in eight at-bats.
Nick Sweet got the big hit with a pinch-hit two-run single in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie. Gray and Zavala also had two hits for Madera.
“Once we got that big hit from Nick Sweet, we started rolling,” Borges said. “The whole tournament turned in that 11 inning game. We had the plan to have Murf pitch in the championship game, but we had to use him a lot in that game. One thing about me and our coaches, we worry more about the kids’ arms than throwing them out there at all cost. This is a passing thing. They are going to go through high school and I want to watch them succeed.”
Madera got on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning. Zavala led off the inning with a double down the left field line. However, he ran into an out on Ramirez’s grounder to short. After Ramirez stole second, Monges drew a two-out walk. Monreal singled up the middle to drive in Ramirez.
Monge allowed baserunners in all three innings he pitched and got tagged for a run in the third. He allowed a lead-off walk and a single. He walked another batter to load the bases. A flyout to left drove in the game-tying run, but Madera got a break when Santa Maria was caught trying to take the extra base for the second out.
Monge walked the next batter to keep the bases loaded but got a flyout to left to end the inning.
Monges got out of trouble in the fifth with runners at second and third with one out. He got a popout and a flyout to end the threat.
After back-to-back 1-2-3 innings, Madera put pressure on Santa Maria starter Joesph Ibarra in the fourth. A single, fielder’s choice and walk put a runner in scoring position, but a double play ended the inning. Madera put a runner in scoring position in the fifth, but couldn’t break the tie.
Madera finally broke through in the sixth. Ramirez and Gray started the rally with back-to-back walks.
After a flyout and a walk, Ponce hit a grounder to short. Santa Maria tried to get Ramirez at third, but the ball went in the dirt and Madera had the bases loaded.
Sweet came up and hit a 1-2 pitch into shallow center for a single to drive in both Ramirez and Gray for a 3-1 lead.
Madera added two more runs to its lead in the third. With one out, Anthony Gamiz reached on an error. He stole second and scored when Zavala split the left-centerfield gap for a triple.
After a popout, Gray doubled to deep center to drive in Zavala and give Madera a 5-1 lead.
DeFranco went out for his second inning of work and got a flyout for the first out of the seventh. He walked the next batter, but got a popout for the second out. A blooper behind first base was dropped for an error and Santa Maria came in to score to cut the lead to three.
DeFranco settled down and struck out Santa Maria’s lead-off batter to send Madera into the championship game.