A huge thanks to Josh Thompson for these photos
It’s not often that a championship game lives up to its billing.
But on Sunday evening, and with thanks to both the Field Rats and the Arroyo Seco Royals, the Sunset League championship was a drama-filled instant classic.
The Royals scored once in the top of the 10th inning and held on for a 6-5 victory.
ASR won Friday’s game one (5-2), and the Field Rats took Saturday’s contest by a score of 11-6.
And that set up Sunday’s winner-take-all scenario at Cal Poly Pomona.
The game had everything, including some clutch pitching, timely hitting, harmful errors or base running blunders, and of course, both sides questioned some calls by the men in blue.
But most of all, it had approximately 40 young men (from both teams) who played their butts off and left everything they had on the field.
The Field Rats got three unearned runs off ASR starter Ethan Warren, and took a 3-1 lead after three innings.
ASR would tie the game in the top of the fourth after scoring twice, but the Field Rats got one in the bottom half of the inning to take a one-run lead.
The Royals would take a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh and the Field Rats evened the game in the eighth by stealing home with two outs.
In the top of the 10th, Shawn Hepler hit Jackson Slipock.
Slipock would advance to second on a wild pitch, and the Field Rats replaced Hepler on the mound with Kyle Douphner.
Jonah Paez came up with two outs and hit a line-shot that seemed to get to the Field Rats right fielder on one hop, but Slipock got a great jump from second and slid safely into home for what turned out to be the game-winning run.
Hepler got the loss, but that young man kept the Field Rats in the game, going six innings and allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits.
Hepler walked three and struck out seven Royals’ batters.
Hepler picked off ASR runners at first base in consecutive innings.
Slipock singled twice and scored two runs.
Paez went 2-for-5, with two RBIs.
Brennan Beckley walked, doubled and had two RBIs.
Blake Beckley walked twice, singled, drove in a run and scored.
Diego Frey singled three times and scored.
Alex Marquez walked and had an RBI.
Evan Nahra singled and scored for the Royals.
Nick Cook walked and singled.
ASR got great efforts on the mound from Kyle Noell, Joshua Perez and Eric Navarrete.
Noell went three scoreless innings of relief, allowing two hits and walking one.
Two days after getting the win in game one, Noell got five of his nine outs via strikeout.
Perez provided three innings of his own and allowed one run on one hit.
He walked one and struck out a pair of Field Rats batters.
And last but not least, Navarrete, who went eight innings in Thursday’s win-or-go-home game against the top-seeded OC Pirates, came in and closed out the championship.
Navarrete struck out two in the bottom of the 10th, including the final out.
TK Parker singled twice and had two RBIs for the Field Rats.
Ulysses Duran walked, singled and scored.
Nolan Wasson had three singles and scored.
AJ Santamaria doubled and scored.
Justin Nock walked and singled, and Daniel Esqueda drew a pair of walks.
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Win: Joshua Perez
Loss: Shawn Hepler
Save: Eric Navarrete
2B: Brennan Beckley (ASR); AJ Santamaria (FR)