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CRUSADERS ANSWER BACK

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By Robert Balajadia

Tensions rose down the stretch but the Crusaders managed to keep their composure, gutting out a must win. (photo by Asha Robles)

Tensions rose down the stretch but the Crusaders managed to keep their composure, gutting out a must win. (photo by Asha Robles)

The Barrigada Crusaders were facing a 8-3 hole in the bottom of the fifth inning before going on an 8-1 run to win Game 2, 11-9, in the 2013 Jim Beam Amateur Baseball Championship Series at the Leo Palace Baseball Stadium.

It was a must win for the Crusaders as the Rangers won game one on Tuesday and would have captured the 2013 title had they won in the best of three series.

The loss snaps a 14-0 winning streak by the Rangers this season giving them their first loss in regular season or playoffs.

“The boys just battled back.  The first couple of innings were tough and we just held through.  The boys kept their composure, we’re going to fight till the end.  Hats off to the [Rangers], not taking anything away from that team,” stated Crusaders head coach Pat Leon Guerrero.

Barrigada were trailing 8-3 in the bottom of the fifth when RJ Santos hit an RBI double off Rangers pitcher Kagan Rabago bring them within four.  Rangers coach Jassen Guerrero visited the mound to talk to Rabago but then made a second trip afterwards which unintentionally forced Rabago out of the game replacing him with Frank Santos.

Crusaders player of the game Sage Afaisen capitalized by hitting an RBI single to pull his team within three, 8-5.  The Crusader fan base felt the momentum beginning to shift as each play was celebrated with deafening cheers.  A play later, Clayton Cruz knocked the ball deep left for a 2RBI single that cut the lead to 8-7 as the Crusader dugout erupted.  The Rangers tried to stop the bleeding by replacing Santos with Andrew Taijeron at the mound but the Crusader raid was far from over.

The Crusaders made a pitching change in the fifth inning replacing Deshon Naputi with Eddie Garza who allowed just two runs in his term.  Garza carried the momentum of the fifth inning straight to the sixth where he allowed no runs.

Crusaders pitcher Deshon Naputi struggled in the first few innings but did have three strikeouts.  (photo by Asha Robles)

Crusaders pitcher Deshon Naputi struggled in the first few innings but did have three strikeouts. (photo by Asha Robles)

Errors hurt the Rangers all game but a couple of errors at first base and good batting in the sixth inning allowed the Crusaders to take the lead.  Howard Wolford took advantage of an error at first base to score the tying run at 8 runs each.

Afaisen had a big fifth inning but topped his performance with and RBI single in the sixth to give them the definitive lead at 9-8.  With the crowd still pouring in support, Kaleb Cruz smashed a 2RBI double on the very next play for the Crusaders who jumped out to an 11-8 lead.

Rangers John Tenorio was able to bring in one more run in the seventh inning but a pop fly by Nate Duenas was the final out the Crusaders needed to live for one more game.

The Rangers got off to a hot start scoring four runs in the first inning but cooled off mightily and let costly errors define the game.

Coach Leon Guerrero expects big things from both teams and fans come Saturday.  “This is now anybody’s game in game three.  It’s going to be a good game.  The fans have been awesome, I haven’t seen Leo Palace packed like this.  Whoever wins this Saturday deserves it, both teams have worked really hard.”

The 2013 Jim Beam Amateur Baseball Championship Series will conclude Saturday night at 6 p.m. at the Leo Palace Baseball Stadium.

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