With three of the remaining four teams in this year’s San Diego Section Division IV baseball playoffs hailing from the Metro Conference, at least one South County team was guaranteed a berth in Saturday’s championship game at the University of San Diego.
Make that two after the fourth-seeded Mar Vista Mariners clipped ninth-seeded Southwest, 5-4, in semifinal action on Tuesday and the second-seeded Olympian Eagles outlasted third-seeded Calexico, 8-7, in a fifth-round needed-to-be-seen-to-be-believed game on Wednesday.
Mar Vista, the third-place finisher in the Metro-South Bay League will play Olympian, tied for fourth place in the Metro-Mesa League, starting at noon.
The Mariners are 19-13; the Eagles are 14-17.
“Last year was the first year we made the playoffs and my goal, as head coach, is to continue to build the program,” a very satisfied yet relieved Olympian head coach Lloyd Dawson said after Wednesday’s dramatic affair.
Ever heard of a walk-off passed ball? The Eagles used two backstop errors to plate the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to steal Wednesday’s wacky contest from the Bulldogs (17-11).
The Eagles had rallied from an early 5-1 deficit to tie the game with two runs each in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings. They had to rally once more after the Imperial Valley visitors went ahead with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning courtesy of an Olympian throwing error.
Despite trailing 7-5 with their season on the verge of ending, Dawson’s troops rallied one more time to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth. Don’t ask them how they did it — they just did it.
“We almost gave it away (on the throwing error),” Dawson explained. “It was a routine play that our guy threw away. It was hard to be mad, but it gave them two runs. But as soon as we got back to the dugout, I heard one of the players say ‘Don’t worry, we’ll pick you up.’ It was great to hear that.”
The remark proved to be an apt rallying cry.
Starting pitcher Abraham Villafana led off the fateful inning by getting on base courtesy of an outfield error by the Bulldogs. Victor Ramirez followed with a double to the left field fence, Austin Mead then walked and catcher Alfredo Alvarez singled to score one run: 7-6 Calexico.
A base hit by Alejandro Melgoza scored the game-tying run, and both runners remaining on base each moved up a base on an ensuing passed ball. An intentional walk to Gregory Brown followed to load the bases.
That set the stage for Alvarez to score on another passed ball. At first, Alvarez was hesitant to head home. But when he did, he slid over the plate as the throw back into the field of play sailed past the pitcher covering home plate.
“I saw the ball bounce, but being a catcher, I didn’t think it was far enough away to take a chance,” Alvarez recalled. “The ball seemed too close, but then I saw it roll to the cut and I came home.”
Teammates immediately mobbed Alvarez. Brandon Ridgels, who was at bat, jumped about three feet in the air in celebration.
“It felt amazing,” Alvarez said. “It was the very best feeling. But it isn’t over. We have one more game.”
The Eagles were down to their final out in the bottom of the seventh when fortune smiled on them when a passed ball plated Mead to tie the game 5-5 and extend it to extra innings.
In the previous frame, former Park View Little League World Series champion Bradley Roberto smacked a base hit to right field to collect two RBI, trimming the score at the time to 5-3.
The Bulldogs, benefiting from fortune as well, scored twice with two out in the top of the ninth.
It was Calexico’s 4-1 victory on Tuesday that forced Wednesday’s replay. The Bulldogs scored all their runs after an error extended an inning.
“We had beat them twice already (8-5 in non-league play on May 10 and 6-4 in second-round bracket playoff action last Friday); it’s always hard to beat a team three times in one season,” Dawson said.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW
(2) Olympian Eagles (14-17) vs. (4) Mar Vista (19-13)
Saturday, June 7 at University of San Diego, noon
•Taj Dawson, .458, 8 RBI, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 25 runs scored
•Daniel Porras, .429, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 runs scored
•Bradley Roberto, .416, 14 RBI, 5 doubles, 3 triples, 24 runs scored
•Victor Ramirez, .370, 17 RBI, 9 doubles, 9 runs scored
•Abraham Villafana, .370, 26 RBI, 4 doubles, 10 runs scored
•Will Lampkin, .315, 11 RBI, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 16 runs scored
•Gregory Brown, .292, 11 RBI, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 6 runs scored
Stolen bases: Dawson 23/29, Roberto 9/15, Lampkin 6/8. Team: 60/84
•Abraham Villafana, 7-2 record, 1.97 ERA, 39 strikeouts in 53 innings
•Daniel Porras, 1-0 record, 2.66 ERA, 19 strikeouts in 29 innings
•Austin Mead, 2-1 record, 2.90 ERA, 10 strikeouts in 29 innings
•Bradley Roberto, 1-0 record, 3.00 ERA, 10 strikeouts in 16 innings
•Gregory Bown, 1-1 record, 3.35 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 22 innings
Saves: Porras 2, Villafana 1
Mar Vista Mariners
•Marco Leyva, .460, 16 RBI, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 23 runs scored
•Carlos Cosio, .407, 6 RBI, 7 runs scored
•Andrew Robinson, .383, 25 RBI, 10 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 25 runs scored
•Javier De la torre, .346, 18 RBI, 4 doubles, 14 runs scored
•Julian Briseno, .340, 26 RBI, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 23 runs scored
•Anthony Bell, .321, 16 RBI, 7 doubles, 1 triple, 22 runs scored
•Andres Preciado, .292, 15 RBI, 7 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 12 runs scored
•Ryan Paniagua, .264, 14 RBI, 1 double, 22 runs scored
Stolen bases: Bell 7/9, Paniagua 6/6, Isaac Hernandez 6/7
•Robert Parra, 1-1 record, 1.77 ERA, 10 strikeouts in 31 innings
•Anthony Bell, 0-1 record, 2.45 ERA, 16 strikeouts in 20 innings
•Javier De la torre, 7-4 record, 2.72 ERA, 27 strikeouts in 54 innings
•Julian Briseno, 0-0, record, 3.00 ERA, 8 strikeouts in 9 innings
•Andrew Robinson, 6-4 record, 3.28 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 68 innings
•Ryan Warren, 5-3 record, 3.83 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 38 innings
Shutouts: De la torre 2, Robinson 2
Saves: Robinson 2, De la torre 1, Warren 1