by Austin Green
SCOTTSDALE, AZ – The dark clouds overhead at first pitch quickly gave way to warm sunlight, but there was no calming the storm brought down by 12u Cali National Team Pac’s offense on Saturday afternoon. The Irvine, Calif.-based squad, one of two teams from the Cali National program participating in the Arizona Spring Championships, needed just two innings to complete a run-rule 20-0 victory over Visalia, Calif-based CBA South Valley.
All 10 players in Team Pac’s lineup reached base and scored at least one run, as they batted around in both the eleven-run bottom of the first and the nine-run bottom of the second. South Valley struggled mightily with finding the strike zone and fielding balls in play, as Team Pac benefitted from eight walks and six errors while recording just six outs on offense. But they still had to capitalize on South Valley’s mistakes, and they did so on just about every single one of them. Team Pac recorded 13 hits in total, many of which were hard line drives and grounders sprayed to all parts of the field.
“That was huge,” said Pac Gutierrez, the manager and namesake of his Cali National team. “We have a lot of good hitters. We're really deep. We expect to put on a performance like that, especially right before [bracket play].”
That was more than enough support for starting pitcher Logan Pena, who looked sharp in his two scoreless innings of work that ended up counting as one of the shortest “complete game” shutouts imaginable.
“He was just efficient,” Gutierrez said. “First pitch strikes, pounding the fastball, dominating with the fastball, and then capitalizing with the good offspeed pitch.”
Pena worked out of trouble in the first and second innings, finding his groove each time. After a walk, fielder’s choice and error put two on with one out in the top of the first inning, Pena struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
After his team’s double-digit scoring barrage in the bottom of the first–which he contributed to with a walk and run scored of his own–Pena needed extra pitches to warm up for the top of the second, and still did not look quite warm enough when he allowed three straight singles to start the inning.
But his defense picked him up as a relay from left fielder Isaiah Vega to third besman Ethan Torres to catcher Xavier Gurrero nabbed South Valley’s J.D. Moreno at home plate for the inning’s first out, then Pena again responded with two strikeouts to finish the frame.
“After they had the hits, I just got that one strikeout and fell in a groove,” Pena said.
South Valley’s defense, on the other hand, consistently made life tougher on pitchers Jackson Todd and Camden Rodgers. With two outs in the first inning and only two runs in, Todd had a chance to get out of the top of the first when Torres hit a sharp ground ball to third, but third baseman Gabriel Gutierrez proved unable to make a play. After Bryan Serna walked to load the bases, Vega laced a two-run single to center, and the ball got past the center fielder to bring a third run home, extending the lead to 5-0.
The gaffes then continued piling up for South Valley. A ground ball to first baseman Gilberto Ortiz could not produce the third out when the throw to Rodgers, who had just been moved from first baseman to pitcher and was now scrambling to cover first, bounced off his glove. Later, an infield pop fly off the bat of Anthony Sanchez, batting for the second time in the inning, landed between three South Valley fielders and brought home two more runs for Team Pac.
The bottom of the second brought more of the same. Team Pac added two more runs in its first three batters with a walk, hit by pitch, double steal and finally a two-run single from Vega. Guerrero, Sanchez, Anthony Tong and Lennox Minor all added RBI singles of their own later in the inning to put the finishing touches on the rout.
“It means a lot [to win this way],” Gutierrez said. “Seeing how tomorrow we’re going to go into the [division one] bracket, it helps keeps our bats fresh. It helps save some arms for us and now tomorrow we’re going to go in pretty fresh with some big arms.”
Blaze Baseball Club is the top seed in the 12u bracket.