By John Sherrard, Correspondent
WHITTIER – Imagine playing to a tie in a tournament semifinal baseball game and advancing to the championship.
That’s exactly what La Serna High School did Wednesday as the Lancers tied visiting West Covina, 6-6, in the 30th annual Newport Elks tournament. The game was called because of darkness.
La Serna, which advanced because it allowed fewer runs in the tournament than West Covina, will play Garden Grove, a 5-2 winner over Century of Santa Ana, in the other semifinal, on Friday in the title game of the Orange County Division.
“Any time you’re in a tournament you try to play for a championship, and we have that opportunity now,” La Serna coach Anthony Gonzales said. “We’re just looking forward to playing in it and coming out and winning.”
Gonzales, asked about the tie game said, “Unbelievable, unbelievable. But at the same time it’s better than losing.”
West Covina and La Serna came into the semifinal with identical 3-0 records in pool play, but the Lancers will move on because of the fewest runs allowed, one, in three games. West Covina had allowed eight runs.
After West Covina rallied to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh inning on a run-scoring single by senior Alex Avelleneda, La Serna (3-2-1) took advantage in the bottom of the inning on a throwing error on an attempted pickoff at third. Senior third baseman Austin Johnson scored the tying run.
Senior shortstop Steve Cordova (two hits, three runs scored) and left fielder Gabriel Cortez (double, single) also contributed for the Bulldogs.
La Serna jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning as it got bunt singles from right fielder Michael Zimmer, Dow and shortstop Johnny Dennis. West Covina starter Fernando Prado (five innings, five hits allowed) also walked two batters in the inning.
West Covina came right back in the top of the third with three runs on Avelleneda’s homer.
“I saw the pitcher (Gavin Callender) with the ball in his hands grip a fastball and I just sat back on it to see what happens,” Avelleneda said.
What happened was a three-run shot to left center to put West Covina within a run at 4-3.