"El Centro has a really good team. And to come from behind and score five runs against a team like that … I was just really proud of our team," said Calexico coach Sergio Macedo. "The key was that our team never gave up. Even when they were down, they continued to fight back and just didn't give up."
While not giving up was key to the Expos' comeback bid, not giving the game away secured the Imperial Reds' victory, according Imperial coach Mark Buesch.
"Really, we tried to give this game away as best we could. Luckily for us, we got the right breaks at the right time," said Buesch. "(Sunbeam's) pitching did a good job against us tonight. They're a good team. They deserved to be here (in the tournament)."
As much as Buesch credited the Rangers' pitching, his guys on the mound didn't do too shabby either.
Between starting pitcher Mario Gomez and closer Matt Buesch, the Rangers could only muster three hits and struck out 13 times.
Despite a two-run fourth inning, Gomez allowed no runs and struck out 11, earning the victory.
"I don't think I did all that great. I did pretty good but not great," said Matt Buesch. "I think I did enough out there, but our defense played really well and I think that was the difference."
Added Mark Buesch: "Our pitching is what's been keeping us in games. Mario really hung in there and did what he had to do. Then Matt just took over and closed it out for us."
For host team Sunbeam, the loss eliminates it from the tournament after losing 12-3 to Holtville on Thursday.
"We had a really good season and this in no way takes away from that," said Sunbeam manager Dale McFadden. "I think part of what happened here was that we had such a tough time having to win our city championship that our kids got really excited about winning that. So I don't think they really had much left over for this."
Calexico's loss was equally heartbreaking. In consecutive games the Expos found themselves in early holes and needed late-inning heroics to make their games interesting.
Down 1-0 against Brawley after the first inning its game Thursday, Calexico scored in the bottom of the sixth to force extra innings, where it eventually lost 2-1.
The Expos again found themselves playing catch-up Friday, allowing El Centro to score six runs in the first four innings, including a three-run second. Calexico scored five in its final at-bat but came up a run short of sending another contest into extra innings.
El Centro's Teddy Whitcomb and Frank Lopez had much to do with digging Calexico's hole.
Whitcomb pitched six and a third innings, striking out 10 and giving up three hits. Whitcomb had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning, but the Expo bats finally came around.
"Our defense made some pretty good plays. Whenever the ball was hit, they were there to make the play," said Whitcomb. "When I was pitching I felt a little pressure because I knew we had to win this game. But I didn't let it affect me."
Lopez led the Brewers by scoring twice and recording two RBI, both of which came on a two-run home run over centerfield that was estimated at 240 feet.
"When I saw that pitch, it was just right down the middle. It was just a perfect pitch," said Lopez, who led the El Centro Little League with three home runs. "But I think everyone on the team contributed in this win. It wasn't just one or two guys."