The CIF-Los Angeles City Section can play some baseball.
A Section that has produced future & current Major League Baseball stars and Hall Of Famers like Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Sparky Anderson, Bret Saberhagen, Darryl Strawberry, Robin Yount, Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, Garrett Anderson, Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas among others, got a chance to show everyone in Chicago, Illinois what those in Los Angeles already know.
The Los Angeles team comprised of 24 selected stars from various CIF-LACS high schools showed up in the four-day inaugural GEICO Baseball City Series... and showed out winning all four games in four days, culminating with Thursday's 6-2 victory over Chicago in the championship game at Les Miller Field (Curtis Granderson Stadium) on the campus of the University Of Illinois-Chicago.
San Pedro High was well represented with seniors to be catcher Waldier Perez, shortstop Joshua Duarte and P/1B Travis Connelly all contributing throughout the four days.
However, the entire team played a great hand in contributing to their success and had the right coach to guide the ship in Matt Mowry of three-time CIF-LACS Open Division champion Birmingham of Lake Balboa, who continues on his wave of momentum in regards to winning championships.
Los Angeles was able to strut their stuff on the grand stage against the host city as ESPNU televised the game to cap off a thrilling week of a life time. As throughout the week the City Section stars got to eat great at all the top restaurants in Chicago, and even got to tour Guaranteed Rate Field, home to the Chicago White Sox, on Tuesday. Thursday got started with a tour of an even more famous spot... Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.
When the game got started, Mowry handed the ball to talented junior-to-be left-handed pitcher Anthony Joya from Banning of Wilmington, and the highly touted pitcher went to work, striking out 8 batters out of 16 batters faced in four strong innings of work, only allowing two earned runs on two hits. At one point Joya fanned five in a row.
Duarte, who made ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 Plays with a diving catch from shortstop in Tuesday's 10-0 pool play win over New York, would trigger the game's first run in the bottom of the third inning, on a ground ball to his shortstop counterpart, who threw the ball away. Duarte was awarded second base, then would score on the next pitch that David Felix (Maywood CES) blasted to right-center field for a double and a 1-0 LA lead.
Chicago tied it in the fourth, but then another Pirate, Perez would drive in Hasan Standifer (Narbonne) with a sharp single in the bottom of the fourth inning to put LA back on top. A second run in the inning would score when a fielder's choice on a double play attempt from Erik Rivas (Birmingham) would force in another run.
Enrique Espinoza (Sylmar) would enter the fray on the mound after Joya surrendered a walk, hit by pitch and a single to load the bases with no outs in the fifth inning. Chicago managed just one run on a single, but Espinoza calmly induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and prevent further damage.
The bottom of the fifth inning was all about the legs of Standifer, who helped guide Narbonne to the CIF-LACS Division 1 championship. The All-Marine League outfielder would reach base with one out on a fielder's choice, stole second on a strikeout, then stole third. On that second steal, the throw by Chicago's catcher was errant enough for Standifer to score an insurance run, a 4-2 Los Angeles lead.
Yet, LA was far from done.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Duarte extended the inning for LA with a two-out double and would remain on second base when Nathaniel Flores from San Fernando High was hit by the 0-and-1 pitch.
In comes ANOTHER Tiger, Daniel Martinez, who had the biggest hit thus far for LA all tournament with a bases-clearing double in the sixth inning against New York. Now in a similar position... Martinez would not waste a second - or a pitch for that matter - tearing into the first pitch he saw for a big two-run double to plate Duarte and pinch-runner Josh Hernandez (Marshall) for the final two runs of the contest. Martinez was thrown out at third trying to stretch his big hit into a triple to end the inning, but that was hardly an issue for the LA boys with the way Espinoza was dealing.
Espinoza would finish the nine-out save retiring three of four batters faced in the seventh inning, striking out three. Once the last ground ball went to Felix, he simply tossed to Duarte at shortstop for the game-ending 4-6 fielder's choice out, setting off a raucous celebration for the victorious Los Angeles team.
Duarte raised his stock tremendously in the GEICO City Series, going 4-for-11 (.363) with 3 RBIs and 5 runs scored. Connelly, although he didn't play against Chicago in the championship game, went 2-for-2 (both doubles) with an RBI in LA's 8-2 win over Chicago in pool play. Perez caught a batter stealing in the first pool play game, an 8-3 victory over Miami, and drove in three runs for the tournament.
Fittingly as Los Angeles celebrated, the iconic "California Love" by 2Pac blared out of the press box of Curtis Granderson Stadium, because in these four days when it comes to baseball, California showed in their four-day Chicago excursion that they truly know how to party.
(Note: Photo by Lorena Duarte)