Savanna loses epic playoff battle in 14th inning
ANAHEIM — Football is commonly accepted as the game of inches, but don’t tell that to the baseball teams of Savanna and Palm Desert, the two needing the length of two full high school baseball games to decide their CIF-SS Division 4 quarterfinal game Friday.
Savanna had the bases loaded with one out, trailing by a run in the 14th, when shortstop Chris Prado dropped a beautiful bunt down the third base line. Two Aztecs watched and waited, hoping it would roll foul as the tying run had already crossed the plate.
The third baseman finally scooped the ball up as it slightly tailed left, inches before it hit the base. Foul ball.
Prado struck out on the next pitch and four-year varsity starter AJ Kennedy, who had been walked three times earlier, flied out, sealing Palm Desert’s 4-3 victory at Savanna.
“A game of inches,” Savanna coach Rick Parmenter said. “The umpire said it was foul by ever so much. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The Aztecs (24-8), who have played in the past two Division 4 finals, will play Monrovia in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Orange League co-champion Savanna (24-6), which hadn’t advanced past the second round since a run to the semifinals in 2008, tied the school record for victories in a season and was the last county team standing in the division.
“I couldn’t be more proud of those guys,” Parmenter said of his players. “To go 14 innings with the No. 1 seed, knowing that you could play with them even though probably no one gives you credit for it, and then to come up short in the end makes it difficult.”
Palm Desert’s Jonathan Serven scored the winning run after he led off the 14th with a triple and then scored following an error during the relay throw to third.
Savanna reliever George Avina went relatively untouched otherwise, striking out six and allowing just three hits in six innings.
Each team needed the slightest of breaks to stay alive in the seventh, eighth, 11th, 12th and 13th innings. Savanna was down to its last out in the 13th inning, trailing 3-2, when Avina reached on an error that scored outfielder Nestor Gil. The Rebels trailed, 2-1, in the seventh when second baseman Nick Murillo’s suicide squeeze scored Ryan Hartman.
The Rebels had just four hits, all singles, and all in different innings, while leaving 12 runners on base.
“That was probably one of the craziest games I've ever coached,” Parmenter said. “It kind of seems like this matchup should have been the final.”
Hartman shut out Palm Desert through the first five innings but had to exit the mound because he was nearing his limit on outs. He pitched 4 2/3 innings in Savanna’s nine-inning victory against Nogales on Tuesday.
“It was two really good teams with two really good pitching staffs,” Palm Desert coach Darol Salazar said. “It’s too bad somebody had to lose.”