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With a big first two at-bats, the White Rock Little League Juniors All-Stars looked to have Tuesday’s elimination game under control.
But the Pojoaque Valley All-Stars simply wouldn’t go away.
Pojoaque would come back not only from a 6-0 deficit, but would erase a late 8-6 White Rock advantage to win 9-8 in the District 1 Juniors tournament at Virchow Field.
The win puts Pojoaque into a playoff with Los Alamos for the District 1 championship and the right to advance to the state Juniors playoffs.
Los Alamos and Pojoaque will meet tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Pojoaque must defeat Los Alamos’ All-Stars twice to advance, while Los Alamos needs just one win, either tonight or in Wednesday’s elimination game if that game is necessary.
“We would’ve liked to win this game, but we played good,” White Rock manager Tim Nelson said. “We don’t have any regrets.”
After a fast start Tuesday, White Rock went quiet for most of the rest of the game.
In the top of the first, White Rock pounded out four hits, including a double by Thomas Russell, to push four runs across. In the top of the second, after Pojoaque went down 1-2-3 against starting White Rock pitcher Ben Nelson, White Rock got another pair across on a RBI double from Zak Coker and a RBI single by Nelson.
Pojoaque would get on the board in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of two walks and a White Rock error.
Pojoaque manager Chris Ortiz said after the game that some personnel changes in the top of the fourth might have helped his squad swing momentum its way.
“We switched a couple of players into better roles,” Ortiz said. “We went to our bench, we made a couple of plays when we needed them, and our hitting came around.”
One of the big changes was on the mound, when reliever Chris Arelleta took over for Berto Garcia. Arelleta, who used a good mix of breaking and off-speed pitches to compliment his fastball, held White Rock scoreless through the fourth, sixth and seventh innings to help his team get back in the game.
Arelleta was the game’s winning pitcher.
With the score tied at 6-6 in the fifth, White Rock looked like it might finally put the game away with Dylan Livermore roping a two-run double into right-center, scoring Nick McCurdy and James Milligan.
But White Rock wouldn’t threaten to score again in the contest.
Pojoaque, meanwhile, scored twice in the sixth to tie the game going into the final inning, both runs coming in on passed balls.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Ryan Wolfe belted a triple into right-center, putting the winning run 90 feet away.
Nelson was forced to roll the dice, intentionally walking the next two Pojoaque hitters, but Wolfe would score on a wild pitch coming just one pitch later.
It was a disappointing end to the season for White Rock, which fell into the loser’s bracket Sunday, also losing a late lead against Los Alamos.
However, the White Rock players felt they’d stepped up their level of play throughout the District 1 tournament.
“We definitely improved from the normal season,” Livermore said. “We got our plays together and had some good, strong defense...we really played good. We had a good season.”