By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
SANTA FE SPRINGS — La Salle High School hadn’t won a baseball league championship since its final year in the Santa Fe League in 2005.
After seven struggling years and doubts whether they belonged in the same league with the likes of Bishop Amat, the Lancers answered with an emphatic 2-0 vcitory over St. Paul on Wedneday afternoon to bring home the school’s first-ever Del Rey League championship.
La Salle (18-8-1, 10-2) will enter the CIF-Southern Section playoffs next week as the league’s sole No. 1 representative with Bishop Amat (18-9, 10-2) as the second-place team. La Salle wins outright because it won the series, 2-1, which is the first tiebreaker. St. Paul (13-16, 7-5) is the third-place team.
La Salle’s Bowdien Derby was nothing short of spectacular. The San Diego State-bound senior went the distance and threw a one-hitter. He struck out 10 and had a no-hit bid until the seventh inning when Aaron Pinto connected on a 2-2 pitch for an infield single. The only other St. Paul batters to get on base was Zach Ramsay in the third inning on a catcher’s interference and then Ramsay again in the sixth when he drew a full-count walk.
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But the Swordsmen never threatened as Derby proved clutch getting the next batter out or the beneficiary of standout plays behind him. In the third Noeh Martinez made a spectacular shoe-string catch to rob Joe Argumedo of a base hit. Then in the sixth, after Ramsay’s walk, Austin Wallis caught a line drive at second and converted the double play when he tagged first to end the inning.
“We preach one team, one effort here,” La Salle coach Harry Agajanian said. “(Derby) knows that he has the team behind him that helps him out.”
Derby, who was clocked at 92 miles per hour in the first inning and needed only 87 pitches (65 for strikes) to go the distance, got stronger as the game went on. It’s no reason why he’s drawn strong interest from several Major League teams, especially after clocking 96 on the radar gun against Bishop Amat. He got an early lead and that’s all Derby really needs.
“What can you say,” La Salle coach Harry Agajanian said. “He has a lot of fire. He wanted this.”
Derby struck out the final batter looking. He threw his arms in the air and pointed to the sky before being mobbed by teammates.
“It means a lot,” Derby said. “To always come in second or third and to finally say that we’re league champs. To get that banner will be very emotional.”
La Salle capitalized from the beginning. Jordan Rodgers singled to left and then advanced to second on a throwing error to first. But on that same play he advanced to second after a balk, moving him to third. David Sanchez drew a four-pitch walk, and on the first pitch Chris Williams connected for a double to left field to give La Salle a 1-0 lead.
La Salle added to that lead after Derby drewa four-pitch walk. He stole second before David Sanchez connected on a full-count pitch for a double to right-center field to drive in Derby for a 2-0 lead. Sanchez, however, was then tagged out at third, but that was enough for Jonah Jimenez to be knocked out of the game. Andrew Rojas came in and got the next two batters to ground out and fly out to left.
Derby was given the game ball. He kissed it but couldn’t turn away hugs from his teammates.
“I know they’d have my back,” he said. “Noeh my boy made a great play and Austin had that nice double play. As long as I’ve been here I couldn’t have done it without my boys.”