The 2012 area baseball season came to an end as La Habra dropped a 6-2 setback to Jurupa Valley and Whittier lost, 6-4, to Alhambra.
By Red Williams
SANTA FE SPRINGS — Stomachs were churning on both sides of the diamond Tuesday as Alhambra High School held on for a 6-4 victory over Whittier in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
The Moors had a 6-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth when the Cardinals began staging a dramatic comeback. And it took left-hander Marco Briones to stem the flow by shutting out Whittier over the last inning and a third. A surprise pickoff play sealed the victory.
Alhambra (22-3) scored single runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings, but the big blow was a bases-loaded double by Juan Morales to right-center in the third inning.
“It was a fastball away,” Morales said, “and I was able to drive it. It’s a great feeling to get to the third round.”
The Moors will battle either Lancaster or Warren on Friday.
There were more than a few who had doubts the Moors were going to do so because of the Cardinals’ recent late-inning resurgence.
“I have to give Whittier a lot of credit,” Alhambra coach Steve Gewecke said. “Most teams, when they get behind 6-0, usually don’t come back but Whittier refused to fold.”
This time around, however, the Cardinals (17-11) came up a bit short.
With a six-run deficit staring them in the face, they finally got to Alhambra starter Gary Acuna (9-1) in the sixth, taking advantage of a hit batsman and a walk. Brandon Fortenberry (3 for 3) drove in Damian Salcedo with Whittier’s first run on a line-drive single to right.
Acuna was lifted in favor of Andrew Arroyo, who was greeted with a three-run homer by Johnny Salgado.
“I felt pretty sure it was gone,” Salgado said. “It was an inside fastball, and I just went with the pitch. But the loss is tough to swallow.”
Arroyo walked the next batter, Nick Vaca, at which time Gewecke brought in Briones, who picked up the save.
Still, the Cardinals were not finished, the first two batters reaching in the seventh. Joey Sindicich legged out a slow roller to second for a single, and Salcedo followed with a liner to right to put the tying runs on base with no outs.
But Briones struck out Hector Ramirez, then caught Salcedo with a pickoff move. Jose Romero lined out to second to end the game.
“I overheard the coach telling him (Salcedo) to keep creeping out,” Morales said. “I looked at the coach to see if he was going to call a pickoff, but he didn’t. So I did, and it worked.”
The Cardinal pitchers walked eight batters, four of whom scored.
“You just can’t give them free bases,” Ramirez said. “And we hit a lot of line drives that were caught. Things just seemed to go their way.”
Jurupa Valley 6, La Habra 2
The Highlanders, who had won their first Freeway League title since 2004, saw their season end at the hand of the Jaguars.
Jurupa Valley improved to 23-2 and will face Monrovia, which beat defending champion Bishop Amat, in the quarterfinals on Friday.
La Habra, led by senior Aaron Porter, finished 17-11.