Tyler Drohan, Correspondent
Joe La Fountain trotted back to the dugout with his head down and a focused stare.
His three-run homer had just given life to a La Verne 12-under all-star baseball team on the brink of elimination, bringing the team within a run with an inning to play. La Fountain’s understated celebration made it clear there was still work to be done to save La Verne’s season.
The very next inning, La Fountain stood at the plate waving his arm as Ryan McGlohan came racing home with the winning run, kicking up pieces of dirt as he slid in to secure a 5-4 come-from-behind, walk-off win over San Pedro Eastview. This time, La Fountain would celebrate. Teammates mobbed McGlohan in front of the dugout and then La Fountain, who took off his helmet and triumphantly raised his fists in the air.
“It’s a good group; they’re fun to coach and easy to root for. For a month now, we’ve been playing one-run games so we’re used to it. The celebration – that’s what we’re here for,” La Verne coach Greg Peplin said.
Video of Sherman Oaks, La Verne game from Saturday
“It felt really great because I haven’t been hitting the last couple games. It was a great game, great comeback,” La Fountain said.
Two outs away from elimination in the North Sub-Divisional of Southern California Little League tournament, La Verne (8-2) tied the game at 4 in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run deep to center by Jerry Terry.
Just before his at bat, Terry’s coach had a simple message for him.
“I knew with one swing of the bat Jerry had home run potential in him so I told him, ‘You’re not taking a strike because you can hit it over the fence,’” Peplin said. “He looked bad on the first pitch, but the second one he got.”
After Terry’s one-out home run tied the game, McGlohan singled and Jacob Coleman narrowly missed a walk-off home run, singling off the fence in right field. After an intentional walk to Jack Rode, a high pitch to La Fountain reached the backstop allowing McGlohan to score.
San Pedro Eastview jumped in front 4-0, belting three home runs including two by Matt Marquez.
“Tip your hat to the San Pedro team. They had us off balance the whole game,” Peplin said.
The win keeps La Verne’s hopes of reaching the Little League World Series alive. Still trying to claw its way out of the elimination bracket, La Verne will face the winner of Tustin Eastern-Santa Maria Southside Monday at 5 p.m. at Stearns Champions Park.
After a thrilling comeback victory, Peplin feels as though his team is well-positioned to advance in the tournament.
“We have our No. 1 (pitcher) tomorrow so I like our chances there, but it’s always a battle. Every team is good here so it’s one game at a time,” the coach said.