National Classic Tournament
Day 2 of the National Classic was moving day, as four teamspunched their tickets to the semifinals at Cal State Fullerton's Goodwin Fieldfor Wednesday night.
IMG Academies (FL) vs Spanish Fork (UT)
It was all IMG in the early going, as they had imposing left hander Max Foody on the mound overpowering Spanish Fork in the early going. Food sat 88-91 inthe first inning, and 86-89 thereafter, touching 90 as late as the 5th inning.Foody has come all the way back from a torn labrum he sufffered as a sophomore,an injury that is often career ending.
Foody was generally able to control all three of his pitches tozones in this start. His hard 2-plane curveball with deep 1-7 break topped at 81 in thefirst, typically sitting in the 77-79 range. He also threw several changeups inthe 81-84 range.
The first two trips through the order Foody allowed only one hit, a double by1B Kayden Porter (who had a 3-hit day), who Foody struck out on a curveball thefirst time through before trying to do the same again the second time...only tohave Porter blast a towering fly ball off the top of the fence in left centerfor an RBI double. It wouldn't be until the sixth inning when Foody was out ofgas and Spanish Fork's hitters got a third crack at the imposing southpawbefore they would start to make consistent contact.
Spanish Fork would push across two runs in the sixth when IMG would have to goto the bullpen for the final out, calling on 2014 RHP Sam Proctor, who wouldslam the door on the Dons rally immediately, working 88-90 with his fastballand 72 on the one curveball he threw, with a low 3/4 arm slot.
Things got very interesting in the 7th. IMG called on 2014 SS/RHP Cameron Vargafor a second straight game, and Varga would pull it out for the second straightday, though it was much more adventurous this time around. Varga would top outat 93 with his fastball and work in a quality 83 mph changeup that hefrequently throws to right handed hitters in most counts.
Spanish Fork had pushed across another run in the 7th to cut the defecit to 7-5on a double by 2012 OF Andy Perkins, and had runners on the corners with 2outs. But a sharply hit ground ball that appeared desitned for left field wassnared by a diving Brett Hanewich (who earned the W in game one), who thenfired from his knees to get the force out at 2B to send IMG to the semifinals.
El Dorado (CA) vs Valley Vista (AZ)
I actually only saw one inning of this game (the 9th inning), having arrivedearly for the Spanish Fork-IMG Academy matchup that was scheduled for 4:00,only to find that El Dorado and Valley Vista were knotted up at 3-3 heading tothe 9th.
2013 SS/RHP Chris Rivera dominated that one inning. A day after catching ano-hitter from teammate Kyle Twomey, Rivera was on the mound in the top of the9th for the Hawks. He wasn't as sharp as we've seen him in the past, especiallywith his breaking ball. But he was throwing his 89-91 mph fastball for strikesand kept Valley Vista in check.
Two pitches into the bottom of the 9th and Rivera sent El Dorado to thesemifinals with a walk-off Home Run to left field. Rivera got a hanging curveon 0-1 and blasted it high and deep.
Tournament host El Dorado has already had two very memorable games to move intothe semifinals where they will face IMG Academies, with a no-hitter in theopener and an extra innings walk-off in the second round.
Esperanza (CA) vs Bishop Amat (CA)
Both of these teams reached the 2011 CIF championship game in their respectivedivisions last year, with Bishop Amat capturing the Division III title, andEsperanza's junior-laden squad finishing second in Division I.
Esperanza brings back essentially the same team, while Bishop Amat has beensomewhat depleted. In spite of that, the Lancers fought hard in this matchup.The Lancers took a 1-0 lead into the 4th, before 2012 OF Kevin Viers yanked anRBI double to right field. Esperanza would go up 2-1 in the 4th and tack on aninsurance run in the 5th.
A diving stop to his right on a one hopper with the infielddrawn in followed by a snap throw to the plate by 2012 1B/RHP Brad Anderson helped2012 RHP David Wilson escape a jam and hold the lead. Anderson would also makea tough play on a high popup along the fence on the first base side (near theopposing dugout) and his first base defense made a surprisingly large impact onthe game.
The Esperanza defense came up big all game long, as 2014 SSTristan Hildebrandt turned a pair of double plays in the early going and showedgood defensive actions. Hildebrandt handled a 97 mph ground ball off the bat ofBishop Amat 2013 1B Adam Alcantara as well. It was a frustrating offensive dayfor Amat, who was unable to cash in leadoff doubles to start the 4th and 5thinnings. Alcantara and 2014 CF Scott Hurst each showed standout offensivetools, but the power presence of 2012 3B/RHP Rio Ruiz was sorely missed.
Ruiz was in uniform (and often a batting helmet with bat inhand), and it was visably evident how badly he wanted to play. If he is able toreturn to the Lancer lineup later in the year it should provide a huge boostfor them down the stretch. His teammates have performed admirably without theirsenior leader, having won their opener at the National Classic and giving astrong team like Esperanza a battle on their home field.