Garcia leads Pearland East to District 15 title
Complementing a Gold-Glove performance at third base with pure-gold results at the plate, Joseph Garcia couldn’t have done much more to help his team claim the District 15 International Little League title Friday night at the Pearland Little League complex.
Garcia banged out three hits, drove in three runs and started two double plays, leading Pearland East to a 5-2 win over Pearland West for a berth in the sectional tournament.
Pearland East scored three times on just one hit in the first inning, and that proved to be enough offense for East pitcher Daniel Ontiveros. Ontiveros pitched a complete game (six innings) and threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings before D.J. Williams’ two-run double in the sixth spoiled his shutout bid.
However, Ontiveros retired Tyler Comeaux on a pop-out to second base to seal the triumph for Pearland East which completed a four-game unbeaten run.
Earlier in the double-elimination tournament, East defeated West, 9-1.
“We just wanted to try to drive the ball the other way,” Garcia said, “and really just score runs any way we can.
“It was real important getting those runs early. It gave us momentum and helped us win. (Ontiveros) was amazing.”
The first five East batters reached base in the top of the first as the all-star squad jumped to a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Damian Landry reached on a throwing error which allowed him to advance to third. After Eddy Tamez walked, Garcia safely made it to first on an infield grounder which scored Landry.
Consecutive walks to Isaiah Castaneda and Ontiveros forced in another run for a 2-0 cushion, and Logan Almeida lifted a sacrifice fly to right to make it 3-0.
That score stood until the fourth inning when East tacked on two more runs to build a 5-0 bulge. Caed Estes reached on an error before West pitcher Comeaux retired the next two batters.
Tamez then walked prior to Garcia crushing a double to the wall in right-center to bring home two runs.
The loss was a tough one to digest for West head coach Greg Loberg, whose team out-hit East, 8-5.
“Leading off the game with the error…it snowballed on us quickly,” Loberg said, “but we were able to bring it back under control.
“They struck out seven times, and we only struck out once. We put the ball in play and hit it hard, we just hit it right at people. But you have to give (East) credit. They came out and earned it.”
The East defense turned a 6-4-3 double play in the first inning, and Garcia stepped on the bag at third twice and fired to first to complete twin-killings in the third and fifth innings.
The last two double plays were hard-hit balls by West leadoff hitter Donte Lewis that were right at Garcia for routine plays which proved deflating.
West scored its runs after Blaine Brown and Ivan Gutierrez ripped singles to right and center, respectively. Ontiveros then retired the next two batters before Williams bashed a shot to deep left to score both runs.
However, that offense proved too little, too late for the West all-stars.
“They got three double plays, which normally doesn’t happen, but every one of them was a bam-bam play,” Loberg said. “But I’m proud of our guys and this is what you want to see - Pearland vs. Pearland in the final of the District 15 tournament. This is our hometown, and it means everything.”
East head coach Josh Estes said the victory was the result of hard work.
“We just take it one pitch and one at-bat at a time,” Estes said. ’We have 14 players on the team, and we’ll put any of them in at any given point.
“A lot of us have played together on the T-ball field since we were four years old. It’s bittersweet, but that’s baseball. It was fun coaching against Andrew Solomon who took our 2015 team to the Little League World Series and got third place in the world.
“Daniel pitched lights out tonight. We asked him every inning ‘how are you feeling?’ He said he felt good. He gave up some hits here and there, but overall, he was great.”
Garcia hopes the team can continue its solid play.
“I think we’re playing really well,” he said. “I think we have a good shot to get to state. Sometimes we fall apart mentally, but usually we rebound and focus on the next play. We’ll just try to get better with each game.”