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Holtville Little League in championship game

June 24, 2002|By JONATHAN DALE, Sports Writer

SEELEY — In an exciting contest featuring both offensive flurries and defensive holds, the Holtville Little League Braves defeated the Brawley Little League Padres 8-7 in their third-round District 22 major league tournament winners' bracket game here Saturday.

"Anybody could've won tonight's game," said Braves coach Mark Allegranza. "Both teams played solid."

He was right.

The Padres jumped to an early lead after a misthrown ball allowed pitcher Justin Tamayo home in the top of the first inning. But the Braves came right back, scoring five runs in the bottom of the first, thanks to Padre errors and solid shots by both center fielder Hadley Newgent and right fielder Jon Gallegos.

Holtville's 5-1 lead didn't last long, however.

Brawley's left fielder Mason Rodriguez, third baseman Jesse Rosales and second baseman Anthony Brittain each doubled to lift the Padres to 6-5 in the top of the second.

The offensive duel continued in the bottom of the inning as Braves pitcher Travis Wilcox drove in third baseman Joe Allegranza with an infield single and brought shortstop Junior Garcia home on a sacrifice steal of second base.

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On the mound, Wilcox went on to hold the Padres scoreless in the top of the third.

Tamayo also did his share of superb pitching by denying the Braves runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings.

Tamayo's sacrifice steal in the top of the fourth inning set up an RBI by shortstop Robby Rubio to tie the game 7-7.

Wilcox then matched Tamayo by keeping the Padres at bay during the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

With the score tied at seven in the bottom of the sixth inning and Allegranza in scoring position at third, Holtville's Wilcox hit a line drive deep into center field to bring home Allegranza and advance Holtville to the championship game.

When asked how he felt, Wilcox replied, "Pretty good. It feel good to win."

He added, "I didn't think we could go this far, but we made it."

"It's a disappointing loss because we can play better than that," said Brawley manager Tommy Brittain. "We dug us a hole in the first inning, and we couldn't dig out."

Brittain added, "But we're still alive."

Brawley will next face the Imperial Little League Reds, which beat the El Centro Brewers 5-4 on Saturday. Brawley and Imperial will do battle at 7:30 tonight on field No. 1 at Sunbeam in the final round of the losers' bracket.

Holtville will play that contest's winner for the championship at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on field No. 1.

In other tournament play here, an extra inning gave the Imperial Reds the time they needed to bring down the El Centro Little League Brewers 5-4.

In what was a do-or-die situation for both teams, Imperial manager Mark Buesch said simply, "It was a tough-fought game."

The close contest saw Imperial playing catch-up the entire game as El Centro held leads of 1-0, 3-1, 3-2 and 4-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Reds tied to force a seventh frame.

In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs, a full count, the bases loaded and the game still deadlocked at four, first baseman Russell Havens held his bat at the ready with Imperial's hopes of entering the championship game riding on his shoulders. Havens refused to succumb to the pressure, instead smacking a grand slam out of the park.

When asked how it felt to hit the game-winning homer, Havens said, "I felt very happy, excited.

"I saw it go over the fence, and I just smiled," he said. "El Centro played a very good game."

Buesch said of his opposition, "They're very well-coached. We're lucky to come out on top.

"Their pitchers did a great job of keeping us off-balance," he added. "I'm looking forward to Monday's game against Brawley."

Tonight's game will be a rematch of their first-round contest, which saw Brawley silence Imperial 8-1. The only run in that game, fittingly, came from Havens.

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