SURPRISE, Ariz. — Orcutt and Oahu battled down to the final pitch in Wednesday’s Babe Ruth 14-year-old All-Stars Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament baseball game in Surprise, Ariz.
Orcutt’s Dillan Badenell made the most of that pitch, lofting a fly ball to deep right field for a walk-off sacrifice fly that gave Orcutt a 2-1 victory in a winner’s bracket game on a Texas Rangers’ spring training diamond at the Surprise Recreation Campus.
“The game was exactly what we thought it would be and more,” said Orcutt manager James Steels in a telephone interview after the game. “It was a pitcher’s duel from the very beginning.”
Orcutt was the home team, winning that designation after another game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
On another scorching day in the Arizona desert, Ryan Delgado took the mound for Orcutt.
He dominated the Oahu batters through 5 1/3 innings before reaching the 75 pitch limit.
“We didn’t want him to go past 75 so he’d be available to pitch again Friday. We could have gone up to 90, but then he’d be done for the rest of the tournament,” said Steels. “So we brought in Caleb Dulay and he shut the door, needing only 17 pitches to close out the final 1 2/3 innings.”
Oahu actually struck first; scoring the game’s first run in the top of the fourth.
An Oahu batter reached base on an error. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second and a Delgado balk sent him to third. He later scored on a passed ball.
“It was just one of those pitches,” said Steels. “The ball ran in on (catcher) Dillan and it bounced off his glove and the boy on third came in to score. Then Ryan struck out the next batter and got a ground out to end the inning but they did get one run — on no hits. But our boys never gave up — even with the error and the other team scoring, they never gave up.”
The game, however, is not just four innings long.
“We told the boys before the game that they’d need to score at least one run no matter what,” said Steels. “Now they’d have to go out and score at least two.”
That could be a tall order against Oahu.
The Hawaiians won the 13-year-old Pacific Southwest Regionals last year, defeating most of these same Orcutt boys along the way.
“They’re an excellent team,” said Steels. “They have great players, are well coached — this game could have gone either way.”
Oahu routed the host Surprise team 18-0 in its tournament opener Tuesday and hadn’t given up a run since landing on the mainland — until the fifth inning.
Quigley Espinola led off the bottom of the fifth with a double down the third base line.
Then Isaiah Navarro laid down a sacrifice bunt in an attempt to get Espinola over to third.
“Isaiah bunted and their pitcher got the ball but he threw it over the first basemen’s head into right field and Quigley scored from second base.”
In the top of the sixth, with the score now tied 1-1, Delgado was reaching the pitch limit.
“He got the first batter out, then they got a single. He got the next batter out and had a 3-2 count on the next one when he hit 75 pitches and I had to pull him out so he’ll be available, if we need him, on Friday,” said Steels. “But Caleb is a great pitcher, too. So he came in with a 3-2 count on the batter. The batter fouled the first pitch off and then Caleb struck him out on the next.”
Oahu threatened again in the top of the seventh.
Their lead-off batter got a bloop hit to short left field.
Oahu tried to bunt him over but Dulay grabbed the ball and rifled it to shortstop Jake Steels who made the putout at second. Steels then tried for the double play but the batter just beat the throw to first.
A fly ball and strikeout ended that threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Espinola led off with his second double down the third base line.
"Ryan was named the player of the game and he deserved it," said Steels. "But Quigley's two doubles to almost the identical spot down the third base line were key plays for us."
The Oahu pitcher had an 0-2 count on Navarro and Navarro swung and missed for what should have been strike three.
But the Oahu catcher missed the ball, allowing Navarro to race to first base. Espinola advanced to third on the passed ball.
“So Oahu walked Connor Adams intentionally to load the bases and that brought Dillan up to the plate. He fouled off the first pitch and then hit that long fly to right. “Q” tagged up and scored on a walk-off sacrifice fly,” said Steels.
Meanwhile, on an adjacent field, Torrance, the Southern California champion, was taking on the Arizona champion Yuma Vipers.
Torrence won that game 8-7, setting up a match against Orcutt Thursday morning at 8 in the final winner’s bracket game.
“We don’t know much about Torrance,” said Steels. “I do know this — when I looked up at their scoreboard, I could see they were losing 5-0. I checked a bit later and they were down 6-1. They ended up coming back to win the game. That’s why I told the boys ‘you never quit — you have the play the game to the very last out.'”
And that last out was the game-winner.