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City champions
Diamondbacks come up with unexpected play to save championship
The Junior Diamondbacks celebrate their Little League title by posing for a team photo after winning 6-2 over the Junior Angels on Thursday night. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
The Junior Diamondbacks were on the verge of a disaster, as their best pitcher was close to reaching his pitch-count limit and their opponents, who had redemption in their hearts, wanted to be the ultimate spoilers. This was in the top of the sixth inning, when the Junior Angels were eager to explode for a few scores.
Then luck got in the way.
Catcher Mario Aguirre dropped the third strike but managed to gather himself and throw out the Angels runner at second base, setting up an unexpected double play. That saved a lot of much-needed pitches for 13-year-old Justin Bradley, who proved to be a force on the mound as his Diamondbacks won 6-2 in the Turlock Lions Club Little League City Championship at Pedretti Sports Complex on Thursday night.
For Bradley, the win helped him get over the fact that he failed in his two previous championship attempts. He struck out seven batters while allowing five hits in the complete outing.
“I was focused, and that was pretty much it,” he said.
Diamondbacks manager Joe Lewis knew how important Bradley was going into Thursday’s game. They were facing an Angels team that wanted to erase a defeat by the Diamondbacks during the regular season. Lewis grew concerned heading into the final innings, when his ace was getting close to 95 throws, the most a pitcher can have before he’s forced off the mound. But that surprising double play in the sixth saved the evening, Lewis said.
Lewis had planned to close the game with Aguirre, another strong pitcher. But that wasn’t necessary.
“I was a little worried about the fourth inning, because he was at about 60 (pitches),” Lewis said about Bradley and his pitch-count. “But then, he got a 1-2-3 inning.” That was followed by another quick inning. “It made it real sweet. Then, we got that double play. That’s one pitch, two guys. You don’t get that very often. That was huge. That took off six, seven pitches. That made it easier for him going into the seventh.”
Bradley finished with 93 pitches.
With the pitching in control, the Diamondbacks were left to create hits. That aspect of their game took awhile to get going.
The Angels scored in the bottom of the first inning, thanks in part to Eric Garibay’s slick base-running. He later scored on a double by Jordan Gonzales, while David Montano followed that up with his only run in the second inning. Garibay finished with two hits and one run scored, while teammate Byron Baker had two hits, including a double.
But there was a quick response.
The Diamondbacks produced two runs in the top of the second on one hit and two errors. But the inning that shifted the game came in the fifth, when they showcased their effective base running as Gerardo Trujillo, Nick Rentenia, Dustin McCormick and Aguirre all crossed home plate to break the 2-2 tie to lead 6-2.
And thanks to Bradley’s conservative pitching, the Diamondbacks were given the privilege of taking team photos with the championship trophy.
“We played a good, complete game,” Lewis said.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.