LANCASTER — For a second straight evening, the brute strength of the Quartz Hill Major Baseball All-Star team proved both impressive and unbeatable, much to the chagrin of Crescenta Valley.
Host Quartz Hill homered three times, including two shots from No. 3 hitter Alex DeShields, in rallying for a devastating 5-4 victory in Wednesday evening's winner-take-all Section 2 championship game at Gilbert Memorial Field in Lancaster.
With the defeat, District 16 champion Crescenta Valley, which was gunning for its first sectional title since 2007, concludes its dual-tournament record at 5-2.
District 51 champion Quartz Hill, which captured its first sectional crown in three years and forced a deciding game by defeating Crescenta Valley, 15-4, on Tuesday with four homers, advances to Saturday's Division III North Tournament at Ladera Little League Field in Los Angeles.
"I've coached this team or have been a part of this team for three years and they've never quit," Crescenta Valley Manager Mike Vinceri said. "I'm sad that this is their last game, but I'm proud of how they fought in this game. They battled to the end."
Crescenta Valley trailed, 5-4, heading into the sixth when Quartz Hill closer Mike Marshall tallied two quick outs, including a deep fly to left center from catcher Jett Costibolo that center fielder Ricky Martin caught at the wall.
With two outs, Crescenta Valley had life when Jaimy Blank walked and then pinch-runner Lorenzo Respicio stole second on a very close play at second.
Yet, Marshall ended Crescenta Valley's final uprising with a strikeout to end the game.
"I'm proud of my team for even getting this far. We proved that we belonged," Crescenta Valley's Lucas Martos-Repath said. "We would have liked to have won, but this was a great learning experience for high school."
Quartz Hill (6-1) trailed for half an inning, 4-3, before DeShields came to the rescue in the bottom of the fifth.
The third baseman, who finished three for three with two homers, four runs batted in and two runs, gave his team the lead for good when he connected on a two-run homer that plated teammate Elijah Gates, who opened the inning with a single.
While Crescenta Valley held Quartz Hill without another run in the inning, the two-run homer proved devastating for a Crescenta Valley team that had just rallied for four runs itself.
"I thought we were going to win this," Crescenta Valley pitcher Scott Vinceri said. "We came back, but we just didn't stop them."
Crescenta Valley looked to be in trouble, down, 3-0, heading into the fifth, while having only tallied three hits.
However, the visitors' perspective changed quickly when Blank homered, his second in as many nights, to lead off the fifth.
The long ball was followed by an error and a walk sandwiched in between two outs.
An out away from ending Crescenta Valley's charge, Quartz Hill starting pitcher Gates instead watched in disbelief as Crescenta Valley's Brian Erickson rocketed a first-pitch fastball just over the right-field fence for a big three-run homer that gave Crescenta Valley its only lead of the game, 4-3.
The hosts flexed their muscles in the third, when they extended their advantage to 3-0 on solo homers from Tyler Vargas and DeShields.
Quartz Hill opened the contest with a run in the first inning on two hits.
Leadoff batter Vargas singled to center field and then alertly took two bases on a sacrifice bunt from Gates before scoring on a RBI single to left from DeShields.
While DeShields advanced to second on a wild pitch, hurler Vinceri avoided further damage by recording back-to-back strikeouts to escape the jam.