Bishop Amat rallied to beat Palm Desert, 4-3, to give Amat its fourth championship under coach Andy Nieto in eight years, and ninth title all-time. Steve Ramirez’s story is below.
By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
LOS ANGELES >> A little more than a month ago, the Bishop Amat High School baseball team looked all but dead, losing three consecutive games and was in danger of missing the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
Today, the Lancers are champions.
Michael Palos had a RBI double to tie it and Bryan Menendez followed with an RBI single for the lead and the Lancers rallied late for the fourth consecutive game to win the school’s ninth CIF-SS championship with a 4-3 victory over top seed Palm Desert in the Division 3 title game Friday at Dodger Stadium.
Christian Moya and Palos had two hits each for the Lancers, who finished 21-11, closing the season with a 10-game winning streak and its fourth CIF-SS title since 2007.
Andrew Clark, Gil Sauceda and Kyle Kabeary had two hits each for Palm Desert, which finished 27-7. It was also the Aztecs second loss to Amat in a championship game, losing 7-0 here in 2011.
“Winning a CIF championship is sweet, but winning it this way is even better,” Palos said. “It speaks volumes of the character of our team. We had our backs against the wall the whole time (during the playoffs), but we never gave up on ourselves.
“We always believed we could come back. We just picked each other up, rallied around each other. It just makes the victory that much more sweeter.”
Bishop Amat used the same formula that worked for the Lancers the three previous games, this time falling behind, 3-0, after four innings. But Bishop Amat, which put together winning rallied late in wins over Quartz Hill and Redondo in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, didn’t waiver.
The Lancers cut it to 3-1 in the fifth on a lead-off double by Sergio Robles and a RBI ground out by Jayson Gonzalez before scoring three runs in the sixth for the 4-3 lead.
Moya led off with an infield single before Anthony Walters was hit by a pitch. Both were sacrificed to second and third before Moya scored on a RBI ground out by Scott Hurst to cut it to 3-2.
Palos tied it with a RBI double on a line drive to left field that Kabeary was unable to handle, scoring Walters to tie it at 3. Menendez, who was 0 for 6 in the previous two playoff wins, then popped a single to short left, scoring pinch-runner Bijor Decena for the 4-3 lead.
“It was crazy,” Menendez said. “Going up there, I didn’t know what I was thinking. I can’t even remember. I just brought my team home. We were never down. We were just struggling a bit. But we pulled ourselves together.”
Hurst, who saved the previous three games, retired Palm Desert in order in the seventh, striking out Isaias Torres and Cody Finley for his sixth save of the year and the championship.
“They took it to us early,” Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto said. “But in the end, we were able to do what we had done, which was try to keep it at a reasonable distance and try to put us in a position to strike back.
“Our guys are extremely resilient. They never quit. We had a lot of doubters (in recent weeks). But those doubters learned an important life lesson — never doubt the spirit of the team. I’m proud of our guys. They deserved everything they’ve received and they deserve to be (champions).”