"We weren't as aggressive at the plate as we have been during tournament season," said Crescenta Valley Coach Brett Ramaker, whose team captured the District 16 Tournament championship and defeated Sherman Oaks, 8-6, in Saturday's opening-round game of the Section 2 Tournament.
"Offensively, we weren't producing as we needed to produce."
Sherman Oaks pitcher Pete Crow-Armstrong made sure Crescenta Valley did not manufacture much offense.
The hurler struggled in the first inning, yielding four hits and both of Crescenta Valley's runs. Braeden Bentzen doubled to right field, scoring Devon Ramaker and Vincent Parrott for a 2-0 lead.
Crescenta Valley threatened to score in the second inning, putting runners on second and third with one out. But Crow-Armstrong shut down Crescenta Valley the rest of the way, retiring the final two batters of the inning on a pop-out and a groundout. No Crescenta Valley player reached second base after the inning, with Crow-Armstrong tossing five innings, striking out three and walking just two.
After surrendering a single to Sam Kunz with one out in the fourth inning, Crow-Armstrong retired four straight before giving way to Niko Candido in the sixth. Candido quickly dispatched Crescenta Valley in the final inning, retiring all three batters to clinch the win and advance Sherman Oaks to today's 5 p.m. championship game against Pasadena American at Northridge Little League Fields.
"Our pitcher struggled in the first, but he settled in, and he found his groove," Sherman Oaks pitcher Darin Nathan said of Crow-Armstrong. "We stayed calm, we believed in ourselves and trusted in what we are as a team, and fortunately, it came through."
Brett Ramaker said his team didn't attack enough.
"We didn't attack the strike zone the way we normally do," he said. "We weren't getting the drive we needed."
Sherman Oaks drove in its key runs with two outs.
It scored four runs with two outs, including a pair of doubles from Crow-Armstrong. The game-winning run came on a single from Jackson Nathan in the bottom of the fourth inning that scored Dante Tardino.
"That's the epitome of our team, we're a grinding, never-quit team," Darin Nathan said. "They believe in each other and support each other."