On paper and on the field, it seemed that Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) was the team to beat in the National Classic, and they would have to beat themselves to falter.
That’s exactly what happened Thursday night at Goodwin Field on the campus of Cal State Fullerton. The Lancers fell in the championship game to Crespi (Encino, Calif.) 7-2 after several defensive miscues.
Lefthander Aaron Gates started his second game in three days for Lutheran and was touched up for two runs in the first inning. Ryan Hawthorne led off and reached on a throwing error. After stealing second, Hawthorne came around on a base hit to right field by Carlos Lopez. Gerrit Cole was playing right for Lutheran and came up firing, but the throw got away from catcher Robby Vaughn, allowing Hawthorne to score. Lopez then scored on single by Ryon Healey to make it 2-0 after one.
The Celts added another run in the second when a double steal allowed Zack Wiley to swipe home.
"It was the heat of the moment," Wiley said. "It was Coach Muckey’s call. It was fun."
The game was broken wide open in the third when the Celts picked up three more runs on a couple of hits, another throwing error and a sacrifice fly, making it 6-0.
Gates had thrown five innings and over 100 pitches on Monday, but insisted on getting the ball again. He last five innings and tossed 78 pitches.
"He came to me and he wanted the ball," Lutheran’s coach Mike Grahovac said. "He’s a gamer."
The Lancers put one on the board in the fifth and sixth innings, but ultimately couldn’t close the gap. Crespi played superb defense and kept putting the ball in play.
Crespi righthander, E.C. Martin, also pitched Monday in a 9-6 win over Jupiter (Fla.).
"Our guy really grinded it out tonight," Crespi head coach Scott Muckey said. "He was sick and he was pitching on two days rest. He got enough pitches in the right spots. We were hoping to get to the fourth with him."
Crespi catcher Jeremy Rodriguez was named the most outstanding player of the tournament, while Travis Forbes picked up most outstanding offensive player. Lutheran’s Gerrit Cole was the most outstanding pitcher after his 13 strikeout performance on Tuesday night.