ONTARIO - With several reasons to lose, the San Marino Junior All-Stars baseball team instead continued a familiar narrative that has propelled it to the Northern Division III tournament.
That is to say, San Marino proved resilient again in overcoming a near 24-hour delay and an illegal bat complication in defeating Canyon Hills, 4-3, in an eight-inning divisional game Tuesday afternoon.
“To simply say it, these kids want to be here and that’s the difference,” San Marino Manager Mack Paciorek said. “We could have said ‘woe is me’ to having to carry over this game an extra day or because of the bat incident, but we didn’t.”
With the victory, District 17 and Section 2 champion San Marino (9-1) advances to its third tournament title game in as many weeks Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. back at Ontario’s Windward Park.
San Marino’s round trip from the San Gabriel Valley into the Inland Empire was certainly longer than the time needed to finish off Tuesday’s action, which was a continuation of Monday’s second-round game versus Canyon Hills of Anaheim, the District 23 and Section 3 champ, which was paused after seven innings Monday at 11 p.m. tied at 3 because the sprinklers turned on.
After holding off Canyon Hills’ rally in the top of the eighth, San Marino clinched the game when Michael Won ripped a bases-loaded single down the right-field line that would have easily cleared the bases and could have resulted in a triple had San Marino needed more than one run.
“All I was doing in my at-bat was looking for a strike,” said Won, who clinched San Marino’s tournament opener on Saturday with a game-winning double. “If their pitcher was going to throw me balls, I was going to take them. But if he was going to come inside, I was going to hit it.”
Momentum seemed with San Marino when Garrett Hill led off the inning by coaxing a five-pitch walk from Canyon Hills reliever David Aguerieberre.
Right after the final ball of the at-bat, Canyon Hills Manger Aldo Amancio protested that an illegal bat was used during Hill’s plate appearance.
The protest led to a 17-minute delay in which both Paciorek and Amancio sniped at each other and both made their cases to the umpires and tournament officials.
The result of the stoppage was Hill was called out and San Marino was forced to sit its first-base coach, while Paciorek was the only San Marino coach allowed on the field.
“I don’t like it when blame is put on a kid. The umpires checked the bats twice and said they were OK,” said Paciorek, referring to the DeMarini CFB11 half-graphite, half-aluminum bat used. “Some blame needs to go all around and that includes me. I’ve got to be more up to date on what bats are OK.”
After the out, San Marino loaded the bases on singles from JP Shohfi and Carson Glazen and a walk to Mark Wieke that was sandwiched in between a flyout. Won then followed two pitches later with another magical finish.
Not to be forgotten was San Marino’s defense in the top of the eighth, which was also pivotal.
Canyon Hills placed runners on second and third with no outs after a single and double from Connor Airey and Aguerierberre, respectively.
Three pitches later, San Marino reliever JT McDonnell induced a line drive to shortstop Tyler Spitzer, who caught the ball and raced back to second for a double play, while keeping Airey at third base.
McDonnell then escaped the jam with a strikeout.
“The whole bat thing didn’t matter cause we got the job done,” said Spitzer, who finished with three hits and two runs. “We just find ways to win.”
San Marino trailed Monday night, 3-1, before scoring two runs in the seventh on a run-scoring double from Wieke that was followed by a RBI single from Tino Mase.