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Late Monday night it appeared Santa Maria was advancing to the final round of the State Babe Ruth Tournament it was hosting. 

Appearances can be deceiving.

Madera erased a 6-4 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning—scoring three runs with two outs—to defeat Santa Maria 7-6 and advance to face Delano in the tournament championship.

The game was part of the California Babe Ruth 15-year-old double-elimination tourney. Madera and Delano face off in the final round Tuesday at 1 p.m. If Delano loses that game, a winner-take-all finale will take place 30 minutes after the completion of the 1 p.m. game. 

Madera's first two batters went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, but then the squad from the San Joaquin Valley strung together five singles to win the game. David Ramirez stroked the game-winning hit, a soft liner past second base to end it. 

No. 9 hitter Brian Monges got the rally started with a single for Madera. Logan Wattenbarger followed that up with a single of his own and Murf Gray plated the first run of the inning with a bloop single that just landed past the outstretched arms of second baseman Andrew Gonzalez. 

Isaiah Monge then laced a single to left field to the game. Santa Maria elected to intentionally walk Charlie Monterrosa with runners at first and second to load the bases. Ramirez then poked a shot past Gonzalez at second to end the game.

Santa Maria started quickly Monday night.

The designated visiting team scored twice in the top of the first, with both runs coming off a deep triple from Gonzalez, scoring Brayan Nunez and Joseph Ybarra. 

But Madera responded, scoring twice in the bottom half of the first inning. Monterrosa tripled home two runs. Madera added single runs in the second and fourth innings to go ahead 4-2. 

But Santa Maria jumped ahead with three runs in the fifth inning. Jeremy Camarena reached on an error and would eventually come around to score. Ybarra singled and scored and Nunez reached on an error and would score on a sacrifice fly from Gonzalez. 

In the sixth inning, Camarena drew a bases-loaded walk to score Nunez and give Santa Maria a two-run lead heading into the seventh.

It looked like it would hold after Madera's leadoff batter grounded into a 4-3 putout and Santa Maria got a strikeout to start the final frame.

But the next six batters all reached base and Madera won in walk-off fashion in front of lively Santa Maria crowd. 

Santa Maria's run ends short of the state title game. The 15-year-old squad won the District 6 Tournament last month at Morrison Field in Orcutt.

The winner of the state tournament advances to the 15-year-old Pacific Southwest Regional, which will be hosted by Northwest Bakersfield Babe Ruth.

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Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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