Last Update: Wednesday, July 16, 2014
|Birmingham Marches Through Chatsworth for City Championship Patriots Freshman Justin Rorick Delivers The Big Hit In The Divison I Final|
|Written by Mike Terry|
|Thursday, 12 June 2014 01:27|
M. Terry / SFVS
It’s A Celebration — The Birmingham players and coaches exalt after beating Chatsworth and winning the City Section Division I championship.
Years from now people may look back with indifference at Birmingham winning the City Section Division I champion in 2014, defeating Chatsworth, 6-3, at Dodger Stadium on June 7. It was the team’s fourth championship overall, but its first since 1969.
They will mull over the Patriots overall 19-14 record and perhaps stop there, figuring Birmingham either just got hot during the playoffs or were beneficiaries of some incredible breaks that waylaid every team they played.
That wouldn’t be fair. Every championship season has its journeys and obstacles to overcome. Every championship season has its stories.
For head coach Matt Mowry, it was losing his mother Connie, a devoted baseball fan, at age 75 last October. For the players it was overcoming an 0-4 start and the win-one, loseone treadmill they were stuck on from March 18 to April 23.
For all of of them it was finding a reason to keep working and believing the season could ultimately turn this way.
“We had guys all year in the weight room at 6:30 and seven in the morning dedicated to getting themselves stronger, trying to take the next step to get our program somewhere like this,” Mowry said. “And with our league, if you get into the playoffs anything can happen.”
“Our guys got hot at the right time. [But] they believed.”
Yes they believed; but they also competed.
Junior right-hander Jonathan Russomano (6-3) handcuffed the Chancellors for 5.2 innings, giving up four hits and one earned run in 5.2 innings before giving way to reliever Adrian Rodriguez, a junior. Rodriguez wriggled out of a difficult jam in the sixth and would go on to earn his fourth save.
“I just tried to stay as consistent as possible in my delivery and mental approach,” said Russomano, who struck out six, walked none and a hit batter. “It was important to stay calm, understanding that we had this if stayed relaxed and composed.
“There was incredible heart and determination with the players and everyone on the coaching staff. The coaches were telling us from the beginning we could be the best team in the City. It took us a while to start believing it, but once we did, that started changing everything.”
And there's freshman Justin Rorick, who batted .242 in regular season (.275 in league) but batted .364 in the playoffs. He slammed a RBI triple in the sixth off Chatsworth starter Tommy Palomera to give Birmingham the lead for good, and drove in two runs for Birmingham.
“I kinda knew what [Palomera] had, but he also made a mistake with the pitch. Everyone’s human,” Rorick said.
Chatsworth (28-6-1) has won nine City baseball titles, more than any other team. But a 10th championship remains elusive. Since winning it all in 2009, the Chancellors have been back to Dodger Stadium in 2011, 2012 and this year, and been denied each time.
Saturday’s loss was painful, Coach Curtis Scott said, because he expected a better offensive show. After all, the teams had played each other two other times this season, each winning once, so Chatsworth had a pretty good idea how Russomano and Birmingham would try to pitch.
But it’s hard to win a game with only four hits — two by Riley Conlan, a senior — and an inability to contain the Birmingham bats at the game’s critical junctions.
“We missed our spots when we pitched and they took advantage of it. And their guys pitched pretty well. So you have to give them the credit,” Scott said.
“It’s tough. You have a great year, you get [to the championship game] and you let it get away from you. But you’ve gotta grow, and you have to move on.”
The game was scoreless until the fourth.
Victor Mercado became the game’s first baserunner, coaxing a walk from Palomera. He was sacrificed to second, and then rode home on ringing double to left by Ray Ruvalcaba, delivering the game’s first hit and RBI.
Chatsworth had to find a way to break through against Russomano — and did so in the bottom of of the fourth.
His no-hit bid was broken up by Conlan, who tripled into right-center. Anthony Mayorga followed with a sharp single into left to score Conlan.
All even again.
Until the sixth.
Alexis Miranda got the Birmingham rally going with a leadoff walk. One out later, Rorick boomed a triple to center to score Miranda with the go-ahead run. Josh Garcia came replaced Palomera, but Birmingham scored two more runs before being retired.
Again Chatsworth fought back. With two out in the bottom of the sixth, Sam Shaikin singled to left, and went to third on Conlan’s double to right. A tiring Russomano then hit Tyler Ryan, loading the bases.
Russomano looked like he might escape when Mayorga grounded one slowly to short. In his haste to make a play, however, Ivan Lomeli threw the ball over the head of first baseman Audelio Camacho and into the Patriots’ dugout. Two unearned runs scored; the score was now 4-3, the Chancellors had runners on second and third and were poised to take the lead.
Rodriguez replaced Russomano, and ratcheted up the tension by walking Josh Ryan. But he ended the Chatsworth rally by getting Jeryd Reuss to fly out to center.
At least one member of Mowry’s family thought the game was over.
“At my mom’s funeral a yellow butterfly came flying right toward us. It was the brightest yellow butterfly I’ve ever seen,” Mowry said. “And at the game, in the sixth inning, my wife Amy saw a yellow butterfly in the stands. She turns and tells our kids ‘we got this.’”
Whatever momentum Chatsworth had going to the seventh was retaken by Birmingham, which scored two insurance runs to push the lead up to 6-3.
There was one last bit of drama with two out in the bottom of the seventh when Comacho, chasing a foul ball off the bat of the Chancellor’s Garrett Kueber, hurtled into the stands and sustained a cut above the left eye. He was taken to the locker room for treatment.
Rodriguez then got Kueber to look at strike three and end the game.
“I’ve dream about pitching and getting the final out in a championship game as a little kid,” Rodriguez said. “To be able to get a strikeout as the last out is amazing.”
Afterward Mowry fought back tears and clutched the rosary his mother wore in his hands. It was the last thing Connie gave him.
“I carry this with me. Every step of the way she was here through these playoffs. My mom was a huge fan of baseball; even in the hospital all she wanted was baseball on the TV. This is really for her.”
Birmingham’s victory meant a Valley area team had won the Division I championship for the 22nd consecutive season, and 41 of the last 42. The last non-Valley team to win the title was San Pedro in 1992.