Big plays elevate Woodcreek past Roseville West for Senior title

Beaber grab preserves lead for Woodcreek
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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After struggling the entire game for any kind of momentum, the Roseville West Senior all-stars finally did Thursday, only to have it ripped away from them. Games turn on moments like this one, in the top half of the sixth inning of the District 54 all-star championship game at Lembi Park. Trailing 5-1 and idling in neutral when the inning started, Roseville West had captured the emotion of the contest with three straight hits – a single by Alex Roper, a two-run hit by Roman Martinez and a Kyle Burger two-bagger. With two outs and runners at second and third, Braxton Phillips scalded a line drive to center field. Off the bat, the ball appeared to be headed over the top of the Woodcreek outfield for a game-tying extra-base hit, but Woodcreek centerfielder Perry Beaber was having none of that. Beaber played the ball in textbook fashion, got a great jump and turned his back on the infield as he raced back and made a spectacular catch that thwarted the Roseville West rally and set the stage for Woodcreek to hang on for a 6-5 win. "The Beaber catch was huge," said Woodcreek coach Rich Hagarty. "It shut them down when they were just getting to the heart of their order. And even though I had no doubt he would get there, it was one of the best catches I've seen. He's fun to watch." The defensive gem was one of three critical plays that turned this battle in the direction of the team from Woodcreek. Woodcreek used two Roseville West errors and a wild pitch to score an insurance run in the seventh, going up 6-3, but then had to fend off West one more time. Blake Rivera opened the home half of the seventh with consecutive infield singles, and after a pop out, Garrett Nunally walked to load the bases. Roper singled to plate one run, and while Woodcreek was indecisive with the ball, Roseville West got caught in its aggressiveness. James took too big a turn around third and was caught in no-man’s land. The out Woodcreek recorded there was another huge play in the outcome of this battle. Though Martinez singled home another run to pull his team within one, Woodcreek first baseman Alex Montes flagged down a Burger ground ball and got the force out at second to end the final rally and leave Woodcreek on top. The story of the game may well be the disintegration of the pitcher’s matchup between Roseville West’s Mark Reece and Woodcreek’s Beaber. While not dominant, Beaber pitched well enough, allowing just one run on five hits before being replaced by Joey Valdez in the sixth. "He did not have his best stuff, but he is a great competitor and gave us everything he had," Hagarty said. "I think the combination of heat and coming off a tough week of football practice really took a toll on him, and it showed early on. But there is no one else I would rather have throwing in a championship game." Reece, on the other hand, was in trouble from the outset, not because Woodcreek hit him, but rather because he was unable to find the strike zone. Seven walks and two hit batters were part of his 3 1/3 innings of work, during which he ran through his full complement of 95 pitches. "No matter how much they wanted to give us the game, we refused to take it," Hagarty said. "Yes, the walks were huge and gave us a ton of opportunities to score, but they seemed to throw strikes and make the plays when it mattered." Reece put three on in the first, but struck out three, including the final two batters of the inning to keep Woodcreek off the board. He also had to work out of a bases loaded jam in the third, and did so successfully. It was the second inning that he could not survive. Two walks came after the right-hander recorded the first out of the inning, and then Beaber reached on an infield single, driving in the tying run. After a walk to Austin McCarty jammed the bags, George Corp delivered the other huge play in this game. The Woodcreek catcher smashed a line drive that bounced to the wall in right-centerfield that chased home all three runners. Corp eventually scored on an error to provide a 5-1 advantage. Once Reece, who was eventually ejected from the game after throwing a helmet, got the first out in the fourth, Roseville West turned to Rivera, who did not allow a single hit the rest of the way. For the game, Roseville West had a dozen hits while Woodcreek managed just three. But Woodcreek made the most of those three hits, and they, combined with two huge defensive plays that came late in the contest, were enough to secure the win and a district championship for Woodcreek. "I wish we could have had a better performance and left no doubt that we were the best team in the tournament, but we'll take the win," Hagarty said. "Hopefully we will learn from the experience and do a better job going forward. I do want to congratulate Roseville West. I think they were the best hitting team in the tournament." Woodcreek is set to open the Section 4 tournament against Citrus Heights at 8 p.m. Saturday night at American River College. "All I know (about the section tournament field) is that Rocklin will be the team to beat," Hagarty said. "They had two Senior teams this year, both of which were pretty good. They will definitely be the deepest team in the tournament, but hopefully our pitching and defense will give us a fighting chance."