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Calexico opens Little League playoffs with 8-7 win

June 21, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

IMPERIAL — It had the intensity of a championship game and everything a baseball fan could want, including a crucial play at the plate with two outs in the final frame.

Not bad for the opening round of the 11-12-year-old District 22 Little League inter-city team tournament here Wednesday.

The Calexico Yankees team defeated the El Centro Orioles 8-7 in the first round of the five-round, double-elimination event after coming back from a 5-0 deficit.

"It feels really good," said 12-year-old Ricardo Calles, who knocked in the winning run with a two-run single in sixth inning. "I felt a lot better after it was over knowing that I helped us win the game."

For Calles and his teammates, the win represents just one step on the road to the championship, something Calexico coach Sal Carrillo is making sure his boys don't forget.

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"Our work isn't done," Carrillo said. "They played well, but we haven't won anything yet. If these kids are as good as I think they are we're going places."

Carrillo's squad came through with six runs in the final three innings. The comeback came after a pair of El Centro home runs, one a grand slam by Jerry Acevedo, which pushed El Centro ahead 5-0 after two innings.

"We didn't need all the runs back at once," Carrillo said. "We just needed to get them back a little at a time and we did that. The kids really came through."

After Calexico starting pitcher Daniel Flores gave up the two dingers, the first a solo shot by Graciel Lizarraga, he settled down in the final four innings, giving up just two runs the rest of the way and striking out 14.

Jonathan Arrellano jump-started Calexico's offense in the third with a two-run shot to cut the lead to 5-2 before Flores struck out the side in the bottom of the inning. El Centro didn't come away empty-handed, however, as it scored a run on a Calexico error and went ahead 6-2.

Calexico added three runs in the fourth inning on an infield single by Mark Rivera and a two-run double by Fernando Cañedo to pull within 6-5. Flores narrowly missed giving himself and his team the lead as he drove a ball over the fence just inches left of the left-field foul pole with the bases loaded before grounding out.

Flores worked Calexico out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth and struck out the side in the fifth. Calexico first baseman Sal Carrillo got his team pumped before they even stepped to the plate with an awkward catch of a line drive with the bases loaded to end the fourth frame.

Calexico tied the game on an RBI walk to Cañedo in the fifth inning and forged ahead 8-6 on Calles' base knock in the sixth.

El Centro pulled to within one when Art Garate scored on an error with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom half of the inning. Flores uncorked a wild pitch to the next batter and Acevedo was sent home from third base as Arrellano retrieved the ball. Arrellano flipped it to a covering Flores as Acevedo slid and the tag was made for the game's final out.

"Our kids never got down," El Centro coach Jesse Cruz said. "I didn't see them give up at all. The only thing you can tell them now is forget about the game's end but remember how we got ahead."

The loss sends El Centro into the losers' bracket for a 5:30 date today with Seaview on the major field. Seaview lost to Sunbeam 4-0 Wednesday.

Despite the opening-round setback, Cruz is thinking positive and his team knows it.

"I don't even like mentioning the word lose," Cruz said. "I only talk to my team about winning, I don't even want them to hear the word lose. They know that it's do or die now and they know what they have to do tomorrow."

El Centro's Acevedo knows what that is.

"Pitching and defense," the 11-year-old said. "We're going to win by playing better. We know we can come back."

Imperial's team downed Holtville 13-3 Wednesday in four innings via both the 10-run rule and Victor Martinez's three-hitter. Martinez struck out seven.

Mitch Edgmon and Brock Moore both had triples and picked up two RBIs each for Imperial. Javier Fregoso led Holtville with a double, a triple and two runs.

Imperial will play Brawley at 7:30 tonight on the minor field. Holtville awaits the loser of the Calexico-Sunbeam contest at 7:30 tonight.

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