MOUNTAIN HOME, ARKANSAS — Saturday, for the first time in their three appearances at the Babe Ruth World Series, the Five Cities 13-year-old All-Stars faced some adversity.
They came through it, rallying after seeing a 5-0 lead disappear.
Five Cities re-took the lead and hung on to beat West Linn, Oregon, 11-9 and continue its advance through the winner's bracket of the double elimination tournament.
Shortstop Marc Byrum preserved the win for Five Cities when, with runners on first and second and two outs in the top of the seventh, he made a sliding stop of a ball hit sharply to his left and threw to third for the final out.
Five Cities will have the day off Sunday then play Greenville, South Carolina at 12:30 p.m. PDT Monday.
Five Cities manager Michael Afzali had said beforehand that West Linn figured to be a tough opponent. In fact, "They might be the team to beat," after defeating North Carolina earlier, Afzali said of the Oregon team.
Greenville figures to be another tough opponent for the Pacific Southwest Regional champs. "They won the Southeast Regional," said Afzali.
Meanwhile, Josiah Cabreros had the game-winning hit for Five Cities Saturday.
Five Cities came to bat in the bottom of the sixth, trailing 8-7. Mikey Afzali, the manager's son, came home on a passed ball to tie the game. Shortly thereafter, Cabreros' fly ball dropped untouched in center field and two runs scored.
At least, Cabreros' fly ball that fell in was SCORED a hit.
"The ball should have been caught," said Michael Afzali. "But since nobody touched it, it was scored a hit."
The Five Cities manager said the situation his team went through Saturday — Five Cities gets a big lead, sees it disappear and then has to rally — is nothing new for his guys.
"The same kind of thing happened to us at the District 6 Tournament. We kind of rolled through the Central California State Tournament, but then the same thing happened again in the Pacific Southwest Regional game."
As his squad is going through these travails, "Guys are freaking out, coaches are saying things and I'm just trying to keep everybody calm. It's not over 'til it's over."
Five Cities took an 11-8 lead into the top of the seventh then closer Andrew Zickuhr squelched the West Linn rally.
Byrum, Cabreros, Travis Royal and Carter Ammons all drove in two Five Cities runs. Byrum, Cabreros and Royal all had two hits. Pinch hitter Aiden Ostrov gave Five Cities a boost with a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
Five Cities, which consists of players from various San Luis Obispo County cities, defeated Eagle Pass, Texas 4-0 Thursday and Harrison, Arkansas 13-3 Friday, in a game that was called in the top of the sixth because of the run rule, before rallying to victory Saturday.