Team USA 11, Team Victory 9
‘Team USA Overcomes Early Deficit to Cop Crown’
By Alejandro Rodriguez, special to MSBL National
January 19, 2015, Palm Desert, CA– Despite an early five run deficit, Team USA rallied to defeat Team Victory 11-9 to win the 50 National division championship at the Desert Classic held at Xavier Prep high school.
Trailing 5-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, Team USA scored five runs to tie up the game. Rex Cox led off with a single and back-to-back RBI-singles by Larry Davis and Jack Prentice cut the deficit to 5-2. Following a single by Paul Contreras, Kevin King’s RBI-double scored Prentice to make it a 5-3 game and two batters later Rodney Vestal’s two-run single tied the game at five apiece.
In the bottom of the seventh Team USA scored six runs to take an 11-5 lead highlighted by Paul Contreras and Larry See each hitting a two-run double. Team USA then held off a four run ninth inning rally from Team Victory to win the championship.
Frank Bons three-run homer with two outs got Team Victory within 11-9 but Team USA closer Marco Barragan, after allowing a walk, struck out Pokey Sanchez to end the game and win the championship.
Rob Munson pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief to earn the victory, Contreras went 3 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs and batted .850 (17-for-20) for the tournament, King went 2 for 3 with two RBIs, See went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and Cox went 1 for 3 with two stolen bases and two runs scored.
Team USA manager Marty Sturgeon was impressed with his team’s championship but more so was impressed with his team’s ability to battle back. “You’ve gotta first give credit to Team Victory. Even after we scored a total of 11 unanswered runs in the fourth and the seventh innings, they still showed a lot of fight in the ninth inning battling back and bringing the tying run at the plate,” said Sturgeon. “Our guys kept playing all the way down to the last batter and we never gave up.”
Team USA won the Desert Classic for the fourth time and first time in the 50 division. Overall it was their 18th tournament championship in their 15 years playing together and Sturgeon plans on bringing his team back to Palm Springs in 2016 to defend their championship. “This is probably the most convenient tournament for us to play in since most of these guys can drive to Palm Springs, seeing as how most of them are based in San Diego and Orange County,” he said.
Despite the loss, Team Victory manager Dave Brunette was still pleased with his team’s effort. “We were up 5-0 early and it being January we had a couple of defensive lapses that we normally don’t have, but give credit to Team USA. They put together a couple of good rallies and came out ahead and we just didn’t play well,” he said. “Winning is always great but sometimes when you lose it humbles you a bit,” he continued.
Brunette also looks forward to his team returning to the Desert Classic next year. “We’ve won six of the last seven times we’ve played out here so it’s always a great time coming to Palm Springs. It’s one of our favorite tournaments.”