By John Honell
Charter Oak got an outstanding pitching performance from tournament MVP Nick Hernandez and knocked off Duarte 5-3 in the championship game of the Gladstone Tournament on Wednesday afternoon.
The defending champion Chargers (6-5) scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning then fought off a late charge by the Falcons for the win.
“Nick was outstanding today,” Chargers coach Tom Quinley said. “The kids played really well in this tourney. This is the best field we’ve seen this year and the kids appreciate playing on a nice field.”
Hernandez held the Falcons hitless until Grant Goldsmith singled with two outs in the sixth inning.
“I tried to pitch to spots and let my team do the work,” Hernandez said. “I try and get groundball outs and they were swinging at first pitches and that probably helped with my command of the ball today.”
Kevin Etchernkamp was hit by a pitch leading off the third inning for the Chargers. He went to third on a hit-and-run single by Elias Maldonado.
He came home on a safety squeeze by Nick Glick for the first run of the game.
“It was actually a sacrifice,” Quinley said. “But I told the kid on third to go if it was a good bunt, and it was.”
With two outs, Hernandez doubled in Maldonado then came home on a single by Kory Brown.
“I was looking for that pitch,” Hernandez said. “I’m starting to swing the bat better and squaring up those pitches better.”
The Chargers increased their lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning.
Oscar Osario led off with walk. Ryan Connelly sacrificed him to second and he came home on a two-out single by Maldonado.
Maldonado had three hits and two RBIs to lead the Chargers offense.
The Falcons (6-8) battled back, taking advantage of some Chargers mistakes to score two runs in the sixth inning and another in the seventh before Zo Carillo got the final out.
“That’s the way we’ve been playing all year,” Falcons first-year coach Brian Grimm said. “We try and be aggressive early.”
With one out in the top of the sixth, Julian Ortega reached base on an error. As Hernandez took the mound for the next batter, the infield umpire called time to talk to Hernandez.
“He said there has been a rule change having to do with the way he was starting his stretch,” Quinley said. “This wasn’t his first start and no one had said anything in his other games. That messed up everything. It seemed to bother him and you can’t fault the kid for that. I guess they are going to mail us something on the rule change.”
After the Falcons scored two unearned runs on two errors and a catcher’s interference call, Goldsmith singled up the middle for the Falcons’ first hit of the game.
That was it for Hernanez as Zo Carillo came in to get the final out.
“Nick was outstanding,” Quinley said. “But I knew that, even though Zo was cold, I knew he could do it. He closed the door on them that inning.”