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El Centro rolls Sunset to claim crown

July 17, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

CALEXICO — When the 13-15-year-old El Centro Babe Ruth all-star team was about to play its first game of the District 7 tournament Friday, the players talked about hitting and defense.

Four days, three wins and 36 runs later, the El Centro squad was still talking about the same combination. The latest example came at Rodriguez Field here Monday as El Centro downed Sunset 10-0 in five innings in a perfect run to the District 7 championship.

The sweep featured two wins over Sunset and one over Imperial, all decided by 10 runs and not one featuring a seventh inning.

"I'm very proud of these guys," said El Centro coach Ernie Silva. "This is the strongest group of kids I've had at this level. From the starting nine to the bench they were the best group.

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"It was the hitting. They played as a team and won as a team. The pitching was excellent," added Silva.

Along with El Centro's offense shining, the defense made few mistakes and took advantage of bad base running Monday by Sunset, made up of players from Calexico and Holtville.

Starting pitcher Alex Caldera and company stranded nine runners and used three double plays to shut down Sunset.

"We just wanted it," said Caldera, who pitched all five innings in the shortened game, struck out two and yielded just five hits. "Everybody came out and hit and played defense. We never fell asleep out there and I just wanted to let my defense do all the work."

The first opportunity for El Centro's defense to come through was in the top of the first as Caldera walked Adrian Sanchez and allowed singles to Eric Vargas and Billy Huyler to load the bases with one out. Sunset couldn't capitalize as Caldera forced two infield outs played perfectly by his defense. Caldera didn't allow another Sunset runner past second base.

While Sunset struggled at the plate after the initial inning, El Centro picked up steam as the game wore on. After Kevin Betz scored in the second to put El Centro up 1-0, his squad rapped nine hits over the last three innings.

After El Centro wasted back-to-back singles in the third frame, it ran up four runs in the fourth during a two-out rally. Joey Clayton singled and Caldera doubled to put runners in scoring position with two outs before Jose Grijalva smacked a single to score both for a 3-0 lead.

Javier Vasquez then reached on an error as Caldera came around to score. Ernie Silva, who went 3-for-3, then hit another double to plate Vasquez for a 5-0 lead and knock Sunset starting pitcher Hector Sanchez from the game.

Ruben Sigala worked Caldera for a walk and stole second to lead off the top of the fifth for Sunset. Sanchez followed Sigala with a ground-out but Sigala decided to try for third and was caught for the second out.

"Basic baseball is what we needed," said Sunset coach Joe Buchanan of three of his runners being thrown out trying to advance. "We tried to walk before we could crawl. I was putting on some signs during the game and they didn't pick them up. Mental mistakes cost us again. Our players really need to focus on the game more if they want to further their baseball careers."

El Centro scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the game via the 10-run rule.

Betz doubled in a run, Vasquez plated one on a single and two more scored on an infield error for a 9-0 advantage. Vasquez then scored the last run as a Colt Snyder offering skipped by catcher Huyler.

"El Centro was the better team and they beat us," said Sanchez, who walked twice. "They played good defense and we didn't come to hit tonight. It was the same thing that happened the first time we played, mental mistakes."

El Centro moves on to the 13-15-year-old state tournament beginning July 23 in Glendale. Silva likes his squad's chances after seeing what it was able to do in the district series.

"Hopefully I can convince them that all we have to do is the same thing we did here," he said, "and maybe we can bring home a trophy."

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