Game 28: West 11 vs. Southeast 10

Chula on this
Chula Vista, Calif. battles back from 10-5 deficit to beat Warner Robins, Ga., 11-10, in thrilling U.S. semifinal

Author: Mark Rogoff - Special Correspondent

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Thursday August 27, 2009, 8:00pm ET

A good, old-fashioned pitchers duel was brewing in the second United States semifinal Thursday night, featuring the Southeast champs from Warner Robins, Ga. and the West champs from Chula Vista, Calif.

Through two and a half innings Warner Robins had a 1-0 lead, the run coming across merely on a wild pitch.

Then in the bottom of the third, things started to change…not in a little way, but in a major, major way.

After a five-spot by Chula Vista in the bottom of the third, a nine-spot by Warner Robins in the fourth, and a two-run fourth and three-run fifth by Chula Vista, the 21,000 in attendance and the millions of viewers at home were left with a 10-10 tie through five innings.

Finally, in the bottom of the sixth, after 21 runs were scored and 25 hits were banged out, Chula Vista ran off with an 11-10 victory when special pinch runner Nick Conlin scored from third on a Conner Smith wild pitch. Conlin was running for Bradley Roberto, who started the inning with a single to left field.

“We talk about playing ‘shock and awe’ and ‘scratch and claw,’ and we saw a lot of that tonight,” said Warner Robins manager Randy Jones.

Chula Vista moves on to face the Southwest champs from San Antonio, Texas in the United States Championship game on Saturday. San Antonio defeated Chula Vista, 6-3, in the Pool B finale on Tuesday.

Andy Rios, who came on to pitch 2.1 scoreless innings of relief to earn the win, cranked a game-tying two-run homer with two outs in the fifth.

“I just needed to throw strikes so we could get back to hitting and score runs, and we did,” Rios said. “I lost my voice from screaming and yelling.”

Chula Vista was enjoying a 5-1 lead before Warner Robins erupted for nine runs in the top of the fourth. Six of those runs came with two outs.

But the West champs responded with two in its half of the fourth and then three in the fifth to tie it, paving the way for the walk-off win in the sixth.

“You’re never comfortable against those guys,” said Jones, whose team had yet to lose in all-star play before this U.S. semifinal. “They’re just explosive. You can’t pitch around everybody. What a great team, maybe the best I’ve ever seen.”

The “best” team he might have ever seen hit four home runs in the game, including a towering three-run blast by the six-foot Luke Ramirez in the third.

The offensive attack also featured a 4-for-4 effort by Kiko Garcia, whose two-run shot in the fourth cut the deficit to 10-7. Garcia also started on the hill for Chula Vista, and he gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks in 3.1 innings.

“He’s got the gift,” Randy Jones said of Garcia. “He has the gift.”

“Wow, that feels great,” Garcia said in response to hearing the compliment from Jones. “I never thought anyone would say that about me.”

Warner Robins starter Justin Jones was cruising right along into the third inning. After striking out Markus Melin to lead off the inning, the Chula Vista All-Stars got to Jones. He subsequently allowed six-straight batters to reach base, the first coming off a Seth Godfrey solo home run to tie it at 1-1. After a walk and a single, it was a Ramirez three-run homer. Then it was back-to-back doubles by Bulla Graft and Roberto, making it 5-1.

Warner Robins responded with its nine-run outburst in the fourth, sending 13 batters to the plate and chasing Garcia from the mound. Warner’s Connor Smith hit a two-run homer to center on an 0-2 pitch from Garcia with one out, cutting the deficit to 5-3. Harley Hunt then laced a double to left-center, at which point Chula Vista manager Oscar Castro pulled Garcia in favor of Isaiah Armenta.

After striking out Kal Dempsey for the second out, Armenta allowed four consecutive singles, including Blake Jackson’s two-run base knock that gave Warner Robins a 6-5 lead. And then, after hitting two batters to load the bases, and with Smith at the plate, Armenta uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop. The errant toss scored Jake Farrell from third and Kyle King all the way from second.

On the play, Farrell collided with Armenta, who was trying to apply the tag. Armenta couldn’t hold onto the ball, which then allowed King to come around to score. Armenta went down with an apparent knee injury and had to be removed from the game. Rios took his place on the hill.

Rios allowed an infield RBI single for the ninth run of the inning before getting Hunt on a groundout to put out the fire.

“We were thinking, we weren’t really done,” Rios recollected of Chula Vista’s mindset in the dugout after the nine-run inning. “We play all six innings 100 percent. We were kind of down, but we got our momentum up and scored.”

Chula Vista, which scored 15 runs in its first pool-play game and 14 in its second, were held to just three runs by San Antonio in its Pool B finale on Tuesday. After scoring 11 times against Warner Robins in the U.S. semifinal, the West champs may just be back to normal.

“I think we got our swings back,” slugger Luke Ramirez said.