By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
TEMPLE CITY — Bringing home a second consecutive Rio Hondo League title isn’t supposed to be a walk in the park, but in the final game of the regular season with a huge crowd lining down the base lines, that’s exactly how the Temple City High School baseball team managed its feat.
The Rams capitalized on Monrovia’s nine walks, four of which came in the second inning that resulted four runs. That’s all Temple City would need to come away with a 4-1 victory Thursday afternoon.
What was supposed to be a pitching duel quickly turned to Monrovia (17-5, 9-3) going to the bullpen in the second inning. Joe Mata was 7-0 heading into this game, but his usual wicked fastball and off-speed pitches weren’t on point. Kevin Shue relieved him in the second, and not two innings were complete before Brad Felty, the side-arm pitcher, came in relief to close out the game.
Temple City (20-3-1, 10-2) kept its end of the bargain with Calvin Copping on the mound. He struck out six, gave up one earned run on four hits and struck out six. His twin brother Corey, headed on a scholarship to Oklahoma, picked up the win earlier this week against San Marino. Calvin wanted this opportunity, and he relished.
“He’s our guy,” Temple City coach Barry Bacon said. “He told me yesterday that he had this one. He wanted the ball and he knew why we threw Corey on Tuesday and he said, ‘I got this.’”
Fans who arrived late missed most of the action.
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Temple City loaded the bases in the second when Calvin Copping led off with a single to right on the first pitch. Gabriel Juarez, the designated hitter, then drew a walk.Mata struck out Nicolas Starling looking before Cameron Legrand drew another walk to load the bases. The Rams hit a grounder and got Copping out at home for the second out. Monrovia catcher Tony Shue then fired to first but Kyle Starling was called safe on the fielder’s choice to load the bases.
“We thought we got the double-play call to get out of it but we didn’t get the call,” Monrovia co-head coach Blackmore said. “Other than that it was a sloppy performance on the mound.”
The walks continued as Benji Sanderson drew a five-pitch walk to bring home Juarez to tie the game at 1-1.
Blackmore had seen enough and opted for Kevin Shue, but his first pitch was a wild pitch, bringing home Legrand to give the Rams the only lead they would need, 2-1.
Jonah Jarrard drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases for a third time. Corey Copping hit what should have been a routine grounder, but a throwing error to first allowed Starling and Sanderson to score.
“We took advantage of them not throwing strikes,” Bacon said. “I told them, ‘We’re not swinging at bad pitches,’ so we earned those walks in a sense.
“We didn’t hit well enough to score four runs, but we’ll take it in a game like this.”
Temple City recorded only three hits yet managed to leave 10 runners stranded.
“You can’t walk (nine) guys against a pitcher like Calvin,” Blackmore said.
Monrovia got ahead 1-0 in the first whenJustin Jones was hit on the first pitch to lead off. Mata helped his own cause with an RBI double to center to give the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead.
But Monrovia’s four hits were too spread out and non-threatning, resulting in seven runners stranded.
“We built a tough mound for us to have to beat them three times,” Blackmore said. “If you had told me we had beat them two out of three in the series I would say we win the league title, but it bothers me more the game we lost to San Marino three weeks ago to be honest with you.”
In the final game to decide the league title, Bacon wouldn’t have wanted to face another team but Monrovia.
“It’s a respect to Monrovia,” Bacon said. “We felt we earned it because we had to beat Monrovia. We had to beat them because they beat us twice pretty good. They’ve reigned this league for 15 years. We wanted to beat them.”