By Brian Reed-Baiotto, correspondent
Jacob Coleman’s bases loaded single to left lifted La Verne Little League to a 3-2 victory in 8 innings in a classic championship game at the Section 3 playoffs at Homer Briggs Park on Wednesday evening.
Azusa led 1-0 into the bottom of the fifth thanks to an Anthony Guerrera opposite-field solo shot over the right-field fence.
La Verne ace Noah Woodall, though, tied the game at 1-1 with a fifth inning blast that went some 40 feet over the left-field fence and Max Urrutia made it two in a row with a solo home run to right to give La Verne a 2-1 lead heading into what looked to be Azusa’s final at-bat.
Woodall struck out Benny Torres to start the inning, but Shawn Whitworth hit a dramatic solo shot to center to even the game at 2-2.
Woodall and Azusa starter Jason Nunez were brilliant, with both going extra innings before meeting the 85-pitch, single-game limit.
Woodall struck out 10 over 6 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on five hits, while Nunez went seven strong and surrendered just two runs on four hits and fanned five La Verne batters.
La Verne moves on to the Sub Divisional Saturday at 4 at Stearns Championship Park in Long Beach.
“Noah was just outstanding on the mound and had that huge home run to tie the game late for us,” La Verne manager Greg Peplin said. “I was so happy for Jacob Coleman to get the game-winning hit and seeing his parents crying in the stands after he won the game for us makes this very special.”
Whitworth took the mound for Azusa to start the bottom of the eighth and was greeted by Andrew Castro’s leadoff single to the left center-field fence. Peplin put the speedier Ryan McGlohon in to run for Castro and it paid off.
McGlohon narrowly beat out a throw to second on Matt Marshall’s sacrifice bunt and two batters later, McGlohon jogged in from third on Coleman’s clutch base hit in the game’s second extra frame.
“I felt like I blew it when I gave up that home run in the sixth, but I was able to regroup and do my job,” Woodall said. “I was looking for a fast ball and got it (on the home run) and felt much more comfortable once we tied the game.”
One of the many unsung heroes for La Verne was Brock Johnson, who replaced Woodall in the seventh on the mound and didn’t allow a run over 1 2/3 innings by striking out Sergio Ramirez and Nunez with runners on to end the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
Ramirez, though, made several stellar plays at shortstop and Nunez, the game’s smallest player, had as big a role as anyone Wednesday night.
“We’re very excited to move on, but we have the utmost respect for Azusa and the effort and class they displayed over the three tough games we had with them in this tournament,” Peplin said.