by Austin Green
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Castaneda threw 3.1 solid innings in relief, James Allen came through in the clutch with a game-tying double and later scored the winning run on a bases-loaded walk, and Claremont, Calif.-based Juggernaut Baseball Red rallied to beat Woodinville, Wash.-based Elevate Northwest-Biell 7-6 in a game shortened to five innings due to time constraints.
The game took place at the Copper Ridge fields in 14u D1 action, Session 2 of the Triple Crown Arizona Spring Championships.
After Gino Tariza reached on an error to lead off the inning, Allen worked a two-strike count then perfectly squared up a pitch, drilling it deep into the left-center field gap.
“With two strikes… I can't try to be hitting it over the fence,” Allen said. “It's a big fence, a big field. So I really just saw the ball and decided… to just turn on it and let my hands, let everything I trained for, everything I've done, just let it fly at that point."
Tariza, who was on third thanks to a stolen base and another error, scored easily as the contingent of Juggernaut fans that had made the trip out from Southern California erupted in cheers.
“James is probably one of the hardest working kids I know,” Juggernaut Red manager Ramssey Ochoa said. “It's seven days a week for him. I knew it was just a matter of time that he came through for us in a key situation.”
Juggernaut was only in that key situation because Castaneda, while far from flawless, helped stabilize the team after starting pitcher Jaeden Quenada allowed three first-inning runs. Castaneda entered in the bottom of the second with runners on the corners, the game tied at three runs apiece, and Elevate catcher Rider Walsh at the plate. Castaneda got Walsh to strike out to end the threat.
“Chris has been big for us,” Ochoa said. “He's kind of our leader, he’s kind of our captain and definitely rely on him a lot.”
But Castaneda ran into trouble in the bottom of the third. Elevate’s Carter Smith, who had already recorded a two-run double in the first inning, brought home two more runs with a triple to deep right field to give his squad a 5-3 lead. However, Juggernaut Red got those runs right back in the top of the fourth. Beau Rudometkim led off with a walk and came home to score on a throwing error from Walsh. Omar Trejo later reached on an infield single, took second on a fielder’s choice, and scored on an error by Elevate’s second baseman.
Juggernaut threatened to take the lead, but Castaneda popped out to second to keep the game tied. It was one of several missed opportunities that Ochoa’s team had to add some more runs in the early innings.
“I think there's still a little bit of anxiety when we go out of town to go play in a big tournament,” Ochoa said. “And we forget that we still have to play the game.”
Elevate took the lead again in the bottom of the fourth, jumping ahead 6-5 thanks to a double from Walsh and a single from Kody Moyer. Aiden Jones followed with another single but Castaneda got out of the inning with another big strikeout, keeping his team within striking distance for Allen’s heroics.