“We were three-outs away from relinquishing a league title we have won three years in a row. But the the heart of a champion came out. If you’re going to beat us, you have to knock us out. They knocked us down a couple times today but we kept getting back up.” — Northview coach Darren Murphy.
“They went up, we fought back, they went up, we fought back, that’s Northview-San Dimas. I love my guys. We will come back on Thursday with the same guys and do it again. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves, that’s for sure.” — San Dimas coach Mike Regan.
Game story: While the San Dimas High School baseball team ponders how it unraveled and loosened its grip on the Valle Vista League title chase, three-time defending league champion Northview found what it has desperately been searching for.
After scoring two runs to tie the score in the seventh inning, the Vikings pushed an unearned run across in the eighth inning to win it, 7-6. “”The swagger and the heart came back to life today,” explained Vikings coach Darren Murphy. “It always seems like it takes a do-or-die situation to bring out the best in us.”
San Dimas, three outs away from all but slamming the door shut on the Vikings’ title hopes, couldn’t hold a 6-4 lead.
Saints senior Kevin Ponzo relieved starting lefty Erik Salcido to close out the sixth inning, but in the seventh Vikings outfielder Kevin Jones led off with a walk and Richy Pedroza doubled.
A wild-pitch scored Jones, then Gabe Jaramillo’s scoring fly to right brought in Pedroza to tie the score, 6-6.
“You can’t give a good team extra opportunities,” said Saints coach Mike Regan. “That’s the bottom line. We didn’t throw strikes when we needed to. We had the guy (Ponzo) we wanted in that situation throwing the ball, we just made some mistakes.”
After Northview loaded the bases in the top of the eighth with no outs, the Saints nearly dug themselves out of it.
After a pop-out, Jones hit a potential inning-ending double-play ball back to Ponzo, who got the force out at home. But catcher Josh Leyland’s throw to first skipped into right field, allowing Bernie Juarez to score from second for the eventual winning run.
The Saints didn’t go quietly, loading the bases with two-outs in the seventh inning thanks to Leyland’s fourth intentional walk. But Vikings relief pitcher Eddie Pedroza, who relieved starter Eric Ruvalcaba in the sixth, got Matt Thrall to pop-out to end the game.
After losing to San Dimas 9-6 in their first meeting, the Vikings (14-4, 8-1) will host the Saints (15-4, 9-1) in the rubber match on Thursday at Northview which will likely determine the league champion.
Northview, the defending CIF-SS Division IV champions, entered the week No. 2 in the polls with the Saints one back at No. 3.
“We were three-outs away from relinquishing a league title we have won three years in a row.” Murphy said. “But the the heart of a champion came out. If you’re going to beat us, you have to knock us out. They knocked us down a couple times today but we kept getting back up.”
“When Eddie Pedroza came in to pitch I told him if he keeps it at 6-4 we’re going to win. His confidence had been wavering, but I think he got his swagger back.”
Before the Vikings rally, it was the Saints who kept climbing back, rallying from 2-0 down to tie the score 2-2 in the third inning.
Northview’s Arnold Banuelos hit a two-run home run in the fourth to give the Vikings a 4-2 lead. In the bottom of the fifth, however, the Saints scored to make it 4-3, then freshman Sean Kennedy hit a bases-loaded double to drive in three runs, giving the Saints a 6-4 lead.
Saints leadoff hitter Thomas Jenson was 5-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored, but it wasn’t enough.
“They went up, we fought back, they went up, we fought back, that’s Northview-San Dimas,” Regan explained. “I love my guys. We will come back on Thursday with the same guys and do it again. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves, that’s for sure.”
Murphy talked about intentionally walking Leyland four times. The Washington State-bound slugger is batting. 576 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs.
With two outs and a runner on first in the eighth, Murphy walked Leyland to put the tying runner on second. After another walk loaded the bases, they got out of it.
“I’m sure a lot of people thought they were watching a Giants game five years ago,” Murphy said. “But that’s out of respect for (Leyland). He’s the Barry Bonds of the area. If he hits a home run (in the eighth) their crowd goes bananas and they win the game. No matter what happened, we were not going to let Josh beat us.”
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