San Fernando pitcher David Lira picked off three runners while giving up… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Emotions were running so high for Friday's Valley Mission League title decider between San Fernando and Granada Hills Kennedy that the teams' two veteran head coaches acted like teenagers.
Armando Gomez jogged down a line of his San Fernando players prior to the opening pitch giving them high-fives and telling them, "It's now or never, boys."
And longtime Kennedy Coach Manny Alvarado got so excited in the fifth inning that he sprinted out of the dugout to challenge first-base umpire Bryan Rodgers, who ejected his son, first-base coach Marcus Alvarado, for questioning a call.
In the end, it was the toughness of San Fernando pitcher David Lira that propelled the Tigers (24-6, 11-1) to a 4-2 victory, giving them a share of the Valley Mission League championship with the host Golden Cougars (23-8, 11-1).
"Lira pitched a good game," Alvarado said. "I have to hand it to him."
Lira (7-4), a senior left-hander, picked off three runners while giving up six hits, striking out six and walking two. Three times the game had to be halted for Lira. In the second, he hurt his eye when his face hit the ground as he dived for a bunt. In the fourth, he had leg cramps. In the seventh, blood started dripping from a cut on his pitching hand because he was throwing so many curveballs. At no time did he contemplate leaving.
"He's a competitor," Gomez said. "I love that kid because he competes."
Said Lira: "I came out here with fire. We had to come out with intensity."
San Fernando jumped on Kennedy pitcher Ryan Cruz (7-2) for four runs and eight hits in the first four innings while taking advantage of three Kennedy errors. The Tigers had gotten just one hit two days earlier in a 3-1 loss, but they were much more aggressive this time. William Vazquez and Isaac Dominguez had run-scoring singles.
Kennedy kept putting pressure on Lira, getting triples from Andrew Pacleb, Danny Alcantar and Adam Meraz, but Lira's ability to throw strikes left the Golden Cougars unable to put together a successful rally.
Now it will be up to the City Section seeding committee on Wednesday to separate Kennedy and San Fernando, using a coaches poll and RPI formula. It's going to be a tough meeting because the only sure thing is that West Valley League champion Chatsworth will be seeded No. 1 for the 20-team Division I playoffs that begin with wild-card games on May 20.
"We knew it was must-win situation for us," Gomez said. "We worked all year to get the best seed possible."
Manny Alvarado was upset that his son was ejected over what he considered a bad call by Rodgers. It appeared that San Fernando first baseman Kevin Martinez's foot was off the bag on a throw that completed a double play.
"I never argue calls," Alvarado said. "He had to be three feet off the bag."