By Fred J. Robledo
Regardless of whether Montview League principals revisit or eventually overturn its March decision that forced the La Puente High School baseball team to forfeit a 3-0 win over Azusa for conducting an illegal batting practice prior to their game — the Warriors still controlled their own destiny in the league title chase, trailing league-leading Sierra Vista by one with two games against the Dons this week.
Now the forfeit might not matter at all. Even with Sierra Vista at home and undefeated senior Elias Novelo on the hill, La Puente overcame a two-run deficit to squeeze out an improbable 4-3 victory on Tuesday to move into a first-place tie in the Montview. (To continue, click thread).
La Puente (14-6, 9-2) snapped Sierra Vista’s (17-4, 9-2) seven-game win streak and gave Novello (8-1) his first loss, though the sturdy Dons senior still went the distance, giving up nine hits with three walks.
La Puente will host Sierra Vista on Thursday for sole possession of first.
“We have no problem coming back from a deficit,” La Puente coach John Hermosillo said. “We’ve come back in the past, you just have to have the same approach all seven innings and keep believing. Obviously it was a huge win. Our guys came ready to play. There is no star with us, one through 15 everyone contributes, you saw it today. We used everybody.”
Sierra Vista didn’t help itself defensively, falling behind 1-0 in the first after La Puente’s Luis Jacobo raced home from third after the Dons botched a pickle between first and second.
But the Dons came right back, scoring three runs in the bottom half to go up 3-1 on RBI singles from Novelo and MacRin Gallardo.
But the Warriors didn’t go away.
After Randy Anaya’s one-out double in the third, Joey Espinoza hit a grounder back to Novelo, but Novelo’s wild throw to first for an error allowed Anaya to round third and score to trim the Dons’ lead to 3-2.
In the fourth Javier Quiroz led off with a double followed by Jacob Aquino’s double, putting runners on second and third for the Warriors. After a pop-out, Jacobo singled home Quiroz to tie the score, then Anaya’s long fly to right scored Aquino from third for a 4-3 lead.
Hermosillo then replaced starter Raymond Sedillo with junior pitcher Michael Patini in the fourth, and he was the difference, throwing four shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out five, including two big strikeouts in the seventh to close it out.
“They got Novello and (Giovanni) Rivera, they’re good but we want to show we’re the best,” Platini said. “My job was to go out and throw strikes and let out defense help me out. Now we have to go home and do it again.”
Sierra’s Vista best chance to rally back came with runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth. But Novelo’s full-count fly out to right with the runners going allowed Dons outfielder Nichols Herejon to get a force at second, a double-play that ran the Dons out of the inning.
“We didn’t run the bases well,” Sierra Vista coach Brett Stevens said. “That’s unlike us, and we made some defensive mistakes. You can get away with it sometimes, but not against good teams like them.”
Hermosillo was especially impressed with Patini, who showed composure in a tight game.
“Michael has lights out stuff,” Hermosillo said. “He’s been one of our best pitchers this year. I was really proud of him.”