Trailing by six runs and down to its last six outs, the Animo Venice High School baseball team staged one of the biggest comebacks in Los Angeles City Section finals history on Tuesday afternoon in the Division III championship game at USC.
The third-seeded Pirates scored twice in the sixth inning and four times in the seventh to tie Crosstown League rival Community Harvest 7-7 and force extra innings. In the top of the eighth, the Pirates were poised to take their first lead after putting runners on first and second with no outs, but they failed to score.
Forrest Riley II singled to center field to score William Henriquez with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and Community Harvest prevailed 8-7 in a contest that John Aguirre, Assistant Commissioner of the City Section, described as "everything a championship game should be."
Starter Ricky Juarez did not allow a hit in the first five innings, allowing the top-seeded Golden Eagles (18-3) to build a 7-1 lead, but after Daniel Sandoval and Fabian Martinez hit RBI singles to pull Animo Venice within 7-5 in the seventh, Lorenzo Martinez singled with two outs to bring home Sandoval and Fabian Martinez and tie the game.
"I felt the pressure, but I was thinking 'Just don't pop up,'" Lorenzo Martinez said of his clutch base hit. "I made good contact and the result was good."
In the first inning, Riley II tripled to right field to score Juarez, Darryl Wilson singled home Riley II and Wilson scored on a throwing error to give Community Harvest a 3-0 lead. Animo Venice got on the board in the second when Moises Amador scooted home from third base on a wild pitch.
The teams met twice in league play, with Community Harvest winning the first 8-2 and rallying from a six-run deficit to take the second, 11-10. Animo Venice was hoping the third time was the charm.
"This hurts less than it would if they blew us out," Lorenzo Martinez said. "We know we gave it 110 percent, we gave our all. They were a little better today."
Animo Venice (14-5) crept closer in the sixth when Fabian Martinez walked and scored on an error and Lorenzo Martinez scored on a sacrifice fly by Angel Lopez to trim the Pirates' deficit to 7-3.
"It wasn't the start we wanted, but we played our way back into the game and when we tied it up I thought we had them," said Pirates Coach Darryl Washburn, who has piloted his squad to the City playoffs in each of his two seasons. "It came down to one or two plays, but I'm proud of the way the team came back. Our goal was to make it to the finals and hopefully play Community Harvest again and we earned that opportunity."
L.A. CITY SECTION DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP
Score by Innings
5 6 7 8 R H E
0 2 4 0 7 7 3Community Harvest
2 0 0 1 8 9 4
Records: Animo Venice 14-5; Community Harvest 18-3.