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Imperial claims major league title

June 28, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

IMPERIAL — Just call him Slammin' Sammy.

Sammy Cervantes drove home the exclamation point for the Imperial Braves in the 11-12-year-old Little League inter-city team tournament here Wednesday with a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning in a 3-0 victory over Calexico.

The Imperial Braves won four games and lost none in the eight-day double-elimination event and finished things in dramatic fashion after a pitcher's duel dominated the first five frames. Cervantes' line drive over the center-field fence was just the game's fifth hit.

"I thought we were going to go into extra innings because it was such a great game," said the 12-year-old Cervantes. "I felt a lot of pressure when I was up there, but I wanted to save the game and I did it."

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Imperial coach Alfred Moore still had a hard time grasping the outcome, which was prophesied by Cervantes.

"He said we're going to go undefeated in the tournament and I got mad at him for saying that," Moore said. "He must have known something I didn't and he made it come true."

Through the first five innings the teams combined for just two hits and one runner advancing past second base. Starting pitchers Brock Moore of Imperial and Daniel Flores of Calexico had the most to do with that.

Through four innings Moore had a perfect game with seven strikeouts before being relieved in the fifth by Victor Martinez, who struck out the side. Flores was just as in control through five as he struck out 11 while yielding just one hit.

In the top of the sixth, however, things started to change. Calexico was the first to break through with what looked to be a huge inning.

Cervantes was called upon to try to stymie the Yankees in the sixth frame, but Calexico singles by Ernesto Gonzalez and Sal Carrillo wrapped around an error and an out left the bases juiced for Calexico's three and four hitters in the lineup.

Spencer Drury relieved Cervantes and struck out Jonathan Arrellano for the second out. With the bases still full and Flores in the batter's box, it was Cervantes who rescued the inning for the Braves.

Flores flared a short pop-up that flew foul to the right of Cervantes at first base, but Cervantes caught the ball on a slide in front of his own dugout for the final out.

"We had our chance," Calexico coach Sal Carrillo said. "I had the hitters up that I wanted up there. A hit or two in that situation and it could have changed the game."

Added 12-year-old Imperial shortstop Victor Martinez: "I just tried to keep our squad calm out there on the field in the top of the sixth and I told them we've got to come up now and get some runs in the bottom of the inning."

Flores walked Martinez and Moore, the first two hitters in the bottom of the sixth, and faced Cervantes with no outs. Cervantes wasted little time putting a storybook ending to the game as he lined a 1-1 offering into the playground beyond the fence in centerfield.

"The kids were very confident," said Moore. "I guess they knew what to expect because our coaches didn't. Our kids really worked hard for this and our pitching was on for almost the entire tournament."

Added Martinez: "For about two or three weeks now we've been on the field every day. We've been working very hard and I'm very proud of my squad. We knew we could come through."

When asked whether he should have taken out his starting pitcher after walking two in the final inning, Carrillo said he wouldn't have had it any other way.

"(Flores) got us here and I stuck with him," Carrillo said. "Our kids played outstanding and not many people, including some in Calexico, gave us a chance at getting this far. No matter what the outcome could have been, I'm still proud of these kids."

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