By Nathan Cambridge
After this, there would be no more games to play in the Little League District 16 Major All-Star baseball tournament. Jewel City and then Crescenta Valley had previously beaten the other in this tournament, so this “if necessary” game became necessary to settle the district championship.
It was Glendale’s Jewel City Little League that took an early lead en route to a 13-2 victory over Crescenta Valley in a game shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule Sunday at Montrose Park.
The game featured young athletes who are mostly either 11 or 12 years old, with their teams’ ultimate goal being to reach youth baseball’s holy grail – the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“[The kids] love ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Star Wars,’ and we say in each trilogy there is a loss,” said Jewel City coach Adam C. Aparicio, whose team lost to CV just the day before. “It’s what you do [next] that gives you the happy ending. You’ve got to believe and they came in here 100% believing they were going to walk away [with the win]. It was just wonderful.”
Entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Jewel City led 11-2 and had a chance to clinch the game because of the 10-run advantage “mercy rule.” With one out, Nic Aparicio smacked a double to the right-centerfield gap. Then with two outs, Isaac Saroughian hammered the ball deep to centerfield and over the fence for a two-run home run and 13-2 advantage to clinch the game.
“[The count] was 3 and 0 and I just saw my pitch and hit it. That’s all I can say,” Saroughian said.
Isaac Saroughian also pitched scoreless fourth and fifth innings. He took over for starter LJ Iafrate, who shut out CV in the first two innings before yielding two runs in the third. He recorded five strikeouts.
“I just tried to be relaxed and balanced. I had the crowd with me,” Iafrate said.
It was a tough start for Crescenta Valley, giving up three runs in the bottom of the opening frame, thanks in no little part to three errors in the field.
“Errors ate us up, early and often,” CV coach Mike Herman said.
Jewel City added four more runs in the bottom of the second. Jack Coppersmith and Logan Millward walked before Aparicio singled to drive in a run. Two batters later, Isaac Saroughian collected the first of his four RBIs in the contest with a two-run double. Josiah Saroughian followed with a ground out to drive in the final run of the frame.
Trailing 7-0, Crescenta Valley got on the board with two runs in the top of the third. Liam Monico led off and reached on an error. Micah Roh then drove him in with a double to left-center. Four batters later, David Kao hit an RBI-single to plate Lukas Bakijanian, who had reached on a fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the fourth, the first five Jewel City batters reached base. Aparicio led off with a double, Kieran Smith hit a single, Isaac Saroughian was intentionally walked, then Josiah Saroughian and Joshua Solis each hit singles that drove in two runs apiece.
On the mound, Isaac Saroughian set the CV batters down in order in the top of the fifth, setting up his walk-off blast in the bottom of the frame.
“It feels amazing. It’s my last year of Little League. It feels awesome,” Isaac Saroughian said.
Jewel City was the district champ, something that had not happened in more than 30 years.
Up next for Jewel City will be the Section 2 All-Star Championship Tournament. It begins today and is being hosted by the American Indian Little League in Palmdale.
“I expect harder competition [in the next round], so we’re going to have to train and do our best,” Iafrate said.
Crescenta Valley had forced the final game by defeating Jewel City, 4-2, last Saturday behind Noah Choe’s stellar pitching performance in the tournament’s penultimate game.
“We had Noah Choe and we knew he’d throw well,” CV coach Mike Herman said. “He throws hard and attacks [the batters] with fastballs.”
Jewel City came into that game undefeated in the double-elimination tournament, giving it a cushion. Crescenta Valley came in with one loss, but had fought its way back into contention. Choe went the distance on the mound for Crescenta Valley, pitching all six innings and allowing just four hits while striking out six.
“He is the hardest thrower on our team,” Herman said. “Once he gets in a groove it is really hard to hit him.”
“I don’t have an off-speed pitch, so I like getting ahead [of the batter] by locating my fastball,” Choe said.
Crescenta Valley struck first, scoring a run in the opening inning. Mikey Herman had reached on a walk by Jewel City starter Jordan Mahler. Soon after, CV’s Lukas Bakijanian grounded out, but Herman came around to score on a throwing error by Jewel City.
Jewel City loaded the bases against Choe in the bottom of the first. Marc Banta and LJ Iadrate had reached on walks with an infield single by Joshua Saroughian sandwiched between. However, Choe escaped the jam, ending the inning unscathed with his second strikeout of the frame.
CV doubled its 1-0 advantage in the top of the fourth, starting the inning with a double to the right field gap by Bakijanian, then an infield single by Chris Chien. Bakijanian later scored on a throwing error. Crescenta Valley added two more insurance runs in the fifth. Three Jewel City errors put Choe at third and Evan Campbell at second. Two batters later, Bakijanian belted a double to deep center field, driving in both teammates.