By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
El Rancho’s history-making march in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 baseball playoffs took another giant step.
El Rancho rallied for a 5-4 victory over Baldwin Park in the semifinals on Tuesday, sending the Dons to their first title game ever.
Baldwin Park was hoping to play for its first title since 1982, but El Rancho’s Joe Sanchez broke a 4-4 tie in the top of seventh with a single up that middle that drove in Nick Vasquez for the go-ahead run.
“I know I had two strikes on me, but there’s no time to press the panic button,” Sanchez said. “I knew I had to get the job done and got it done. I stuck with the basics and went up the middle. That’s what I was thinking the whole way.”
Baldwin Park had a chance to tie in the bottom of the seventh. With runners on first and third and two outs, Dons reliever Julian Vizcarra struck out Braves clean-up hitter Dominic Hilo to end the game.
“Every day we say believe, believe, believe,” Sanchez said. “We never gave up and never put our heads down. We’re 24 strong and we got it done.”
After finishing third in the Del Rio League, El Rancho (20-10) will face top seed Oaks Christian, a 3-0 winner over San Dimas, in the championship on Saturday at UC Riverside at 7:30 p.m.
Baldwin Park finishes 23-4. (To continue, click link).
TODAY’S CIF-SS SEMIFINALS
Serra 9, Diamond Bar 2
Oaks Christian 3, San Dimas 0
El Rancho 5, Baldwin Park 4
Aquinas 9, Northview 1
\“Unbelievable,” El Rancho coach Frank Llanes said. “It means we’re playing for all the guys before us. We stand on their shoulders, that’s the tradition we have at the school. We’re going to play for them on Saturday.”
After El Rancho took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning, the Braves went ahead 4-2 on Ryan Cruz’s three-run homer to center in the bottom half.
The Braves ran themselves out of a potential huge inning. After Cruz’s homer, there were still no outs when Justin Tellez reached first on an error. But he was picked off.
Ben Fonseca followed with a double, but he was picked off trying to take third.
“A couple of kids made a couple mistakes on the bases and in these big games you make mistakes they’re going to cost you,” Baldwin Park coach Jake Barendregt said. “But I don’t want to think about how the mistakes cost us because we could have easily hit a gaper (in the seventh) and the game’s over and we win.
“But that’s part of the game, I’d be full of (crap) if I came up here and made a bunch of excuses on why we lost. They played a great game and we got exactly who we thought we were getting, a scrappy team. A team kind of like us.”
After Baldwin Park failed to build on their 4-2 lead, the Dons came right back and tied it in the sixth.
Leo Duran singled in Frank Vargas and freshman Vincent Fuentes belted his second RBI of the game, singling home Esteban Solis to tie the score, 4-4.
The Dons scored their two runs in the fifth and sixth with two outs.
“This is a testament to my young men,” Llanes said. “They battle every day in practice, not just on game days. We’re not surprised. It could have easily been them (celebrating). We were down 4-2 after the home run and we didn’t give up, it feels great to be in the finals.”
Baldwin Park lefty Bernardo Flores and El Rancho lefty Marcus Price started and were both replaced in the fifth inning.