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Church's heroics help El Toro claim its first Loara title
ANAHEIM – El Toro right fielder Nathan Church left a lasting impact late in the Loara Tournament championship game, giving tournament organizers no choice but to name him Most Valuable Player.
In a 1-1 game, Aliso Niguel had loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Church made a running, over-the-shoulder catch on a line drive by Kevin Fowler to send the game to extra innings.
Church, a sophomore, then drove in two runs with a base hit in the eighth, which ended up being the difference in helping the Chargers to their first ever Loara Tournament championship, 3-1, Saturday night at Dee Fee Field.
“I was just trying to get on so that the guy behind me had an opportunity,” Church said. “It’s our first championship in this tournament and it feels great.”
The game featured lots of baserunners. The pitchers – two of them freshmen – for No. 8 Aliso Niguel (5-2) walked 10 batters, while El Toro’s pitchers walked four and hit three batters. The teams combined for 10 hits.
But neither side could bring home runners in scoring position, save for the fifth inning, when both teams scored one each.
“Any time you get that many walks and that many baserunners on, it can be frustrating,” Chargers coach Mike Gonzales said. “Give them credit, they made pitches when they needed to.”
El Toro (6-1) scored first on a throwing error by Aliso Niguel third baseman Connor Kokx, which allowed Kenny Oyama to score from first base in the fifth inning.
Kokx made up for it in the bottom half, breaking up a no-hitter by Sam Glick while driving in Andrew Tsunoda with an infield single.
The Wolverines appeared poised to walk off after loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but El Toro’s Austin Green struck out Demetri Colacchio before Church’s catch.
Green earned the win for the Chargers.
The two teams face off again Friday in their South Coast League opener.
“We had a chance to win it, but they made a great play on a ball that was squared up at the end,” Wolverines coach Craig Hanson said. “I’m proud of our guys for competing.”
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