Calexico Babe Ruth fights off Imperial surge to win 5-4.

June 28, 2002|By TIM YANNI, Sports Writer

IMPERIAL — The Calexico 14-15-year-old Babe Ruth team fought off an Imperial comeback in the top of the seventh inning to come away with a 5-4 win to advance to the District 7 championship game.

"They wanted it," said Calexico coach Jose Niebla. "It was all heart."

That "heart" was evident in the top of the fifth when right fielder Oscar Cardinas made a difficult running catch on a fly ball that likely would have scored two Imperial runs had it been fair.

Instead, his catch helped Calexico go into the bottom of the inning with the score tied at 1-1.

In the bottom of the sixth, Henry Valdez doubled to score George Rodriguez for the tie breaker, and Emmanuel Herrero scored on a Bobby Mendoza sacrifice bunt to put Calexico up 3-1.

Valdez would then score on a Joey Niebla single.

Imperial started its comeback in the top of the seventh when Eddie Martinez stepped up to the plate with two outs, with Tom Whitehead on second and Jonathan Giurbino on first.


Martinez smacked a triple into deep right field, scoring both Imperial runners to pull to within one.

Maxx Ortega then tied the game when he hit a single to right field to score Martinez.

Ortega was thrown out at second on the next play.

Martinez took the mound in the bottom of the seventh.

Calexico's Joshua Patton got on with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a fielding error.

Martinez then balked and Patton was awarded home for the winning run.

"Any game is not over till it's over," Jose Niebla said. "It's not over till the three outs."

Niebla said his team was comfortable with the three-run lead going into the final inning, but he called the game a "learning experience" for both teams.

"You live and learn," Niebla said, adding Imperial learned the hard way that a mental mistake can cost a game.

Imperial coach Jaime Estrada said his players' spirits were down after the heart-breaking loss, but he hopes they can rebound in the next round.

"Calexico's always been a good team," Estrada said. "They were scared just like we were," he said, adding he felt Martinez's triple shifted momentum in Imperial's direction.

"It was anybody's game," Estrada said.

In other Babe Ruth 14-15-year-old action, Mario Meza gave up four hits and two walks and struck out 12 batters in seven innings as he led El Centro to a 9-0 victory over Brawley in the losers' bracket quarterfinal.

El Centro used a four-run fifth inning to build a lead on Brawley as Randall Andrews led El Centro with three hits.

Brawley was led by Julian Escalera, who had two singles.

Imperial will face El Centro at 7 tonight at Imperial High to determine Calexico's opponent in the final.

"It's hard to say we're going to win because all the teams are good," Estrada said. "Hopefully we're going to take it."

Calexico will face the winner of that game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at 6:30 p.m., also at Imperial High.

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