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If the 30th Valley-Hi Optimist Club All-Star baseball game had taken place during the preseason, rather than after the season had wrapped up, Southwest senior Javier Salinas might not have been chosen to participate.
That would have been unfortunate for the West team, which edged the East 7-6 Tuesday at the Frank Tejeda Complex.
As an encore to an outstanding senior year, Salinas drove in the game’s first run and also the West’s last ru n – which proved to be the game-winner.
“It was an honor,” Salinas said of being selected for the all-star contest. “I pretty much rode the bench the first three years. I finally got a chance this year. I tried to show I deserved it.
“When I finally got to play, I was an all-star. This has been a great experience.”
Salinas was one of 18 area players who played in the game. They represented 10 local schools.
Holy Cross senior Wyatt Trinidad and South San’s Adam Rodriguez drew walks as the first two West batters in the seventh. That brought up Salinas, who hopes to make the University of Texas-San Antonio squad as a walk-on or non-scholarship player.
The Dragons outfielder dropped an opposite-field single to right that brought Trinidad home and increased his team’s lead to 7-1. It didn’t seem that way at the time, but the run turned out to be vital.
“I felt pretty comfortable at the plate tonight,” Salinas said. “I was a little jittery in the first inning, but that went away. I was able to get out ahead of (that pitch) and take it oppo.”
West pitchers Jordan Hackett (Taft), Trinidad and John Eric Cortez (Southwest) had kept the East’s bats mostly silent to that point. That changed suddenly as Cortez entered his second inning.
After Cortez retired the leadoff hitter on a comebacker, Jesse Martinez (Holmes) lined a single and Jordan Pruitt (Cole) drew a walk. Matt Martinez (Antonian) followed with a crucial, two-run double.
With the East trailing 7-3, Seth Henry came to the plate. The Edison standout singled and then stole second as part of a delayed double steal. Martinez scored from third base and the East was within three runs.
“When you’ve got runs in scoring position, you have to move them over,” said Henry, who shared catching duties with Burbank’s Andy Morales. “I did my part, and other people did their parts. That was a good momentum changer.”
Henry scored as Burbank’s Eduardo Salas drew a walk on a wild pitch. West manager Polo Botello (Holy Cross) brought in reliever Ryan Larson (Warren) with the score 7-5.
Larson retired the first batter he faced, but Harlandale’s Michael Agis worked a 3-2 count against him. On the payoff pitch, Agis slammed a double off the left-field fence. It was the last hit on his home field for the four-year starter bound for Broward College.
Agis’ hit brought in Salas from second base.
“I was hoping it would go out. That would have made my day,” said Agis, who pitched three scoreless innings. “You never want to make the last out. I wanted to keep it going . If we had tied it there, who knows what might have happened.”
Edison’s Zach Garcia drew a base on balls from Larson, but the Warren pitcher escaped the inning without further damage. He then retired the last six East batters in order to notch the save.
Agis and West starting pitcher Jordan Hackett (Taft) kept the game 0-0 through three innings. The Harlandale pitcher cruised after pitching out of a bases-loaded situation in the first. He allowed just three hits, while Hackett limited the East to one.
It was the last game Agis will pitch for a while. He’s shutting his right arm down until he reports to Broward College in Florida in August to begin his junior college career.
“It felt great to be here with all these great players,” Agis said. “It was a good feeling to be out here (at the Tejeda Complex) one more time.
“(My pitching) was good and the other pitcher (Hackett) was good, too. I didn’t want to give up that first run.”
The West scored shortly after Agis’ mound stint ended.
In the fourth inning, Trinidad and Cortez drew walks ahead of Salinas’ first RBI single. William Rangel-Alfaro (Stevens) produced another RBI hit to make the score 2-0 in the West’s favor.
The East, managed by Highlands coach Mike Perez, also scored in the inning. Max Heintzelman (Antonian) and Agis, who drilled a rocket-shot past the shortstop, set the table. Garcia hit into a force out, but an errant throw at first brought in Heintzelman.
The West added three runs in the fifth on an RBI single from Andrew Johnson (Warren) and a two-RBI single from Larson. Central Catholic outfielder LaShawn Thomas sparked the rally by reaching base on a bloop single and stealing second base.
“I knew the pitchers,” Thomas said. “It really helped me to know those guys and what they were going to do. It was a great experience.”
The Central Catholic grad will play both football, as a wide receiver, and baseball at Norwich University, a private military school in Vermont.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” Thomas said. “I enjoyed my last baseball game. It got me prepared for next year at college.”
Trinidad, meanwhile, kept the East in check to protect the lead. The Knights ace limited the home team to three hits in his final baseball game.
“It started when I was warming up in the bullpen,” Trinidad said. “I was feeling like everything was working. When I’m able to locate my curve, it’s a good day.”
Although he’s coming off an outstanding career for the Knights, he won’t play college baseball. Trinidad who has a full academic scholarship to major in biology at Texas A&M University.
“I had a good season offensively,” he said. “I worked with the coaches and I ended up hitting .422. I had to work hard to do it, but hard work pays off.”
Trinidad led off the sixth with a base hit and scored on a wild pitch after Rodriguez and Juan Diaz (Highlands) filled the bases with a pair of walks. The West led 6-1 after six innings.
“It felt great to play with these guys,” Trinidad said. “We came together as a team right away. We didn’t have a practice. We all got here about 4:30 p.m. (for the 6:30 game).”
Like Harlandale coach Eric Forestier – the winning pitcher in the first Optimist all-star game – Montemayor played in the game as a high school senior. It had a different name at that time.
Valley-Hi Optimists All-Star Game area participants
Central Catholic – LaShawn Thomas; Holy Cross – Sammy Moreno, Wyatt Trinidad; Jefferson – Cesar Garza; McCollum – Patrick Jauregui; South San – Adam Rodriguez; Southwest – John Eric Cortez, Javier Salinas.
Burbank – Andy Morales, Eduardo Salas; Edison – Zach Garcia, Seth Henry, John Martinez; Harlandale – Michael Agis, Nikolas Martinez; Highlands – Juan Diaz, Richard Gonzalez, Antero Perez.