CORONA, Calif. - The Bethesda Flames continued their great season with two wins on Saturday to claim a spot at the NCCAA World Series in Mason, Ohio.
The Flames did not make it easy on themselves after losing game one of the best of three regional on Friday.
The Flames struck first in the contest. They were gifted a run in the bottom of the first with a St. Katherine's throwing error.
The Firebirds took the lead in the second inning and had it the rest of the game. It was a tight contest until the seventh when the Firebirds scored six in the seventh inning to push their lead to 9-2.
Kevin Maxey was the lone star for the Flames as he belted his 13th home run on the season.
The Flames were put in a must win two situation on Saturday. With their backs against the wall, they gave the baseball to senior Daniel Arellano. He responded with one of his best starts on the season.
Daniel threw eight innings allowing only one run on three hits with six strikeouts.
The Flames gave him some cushion early with a four-run top of the first. Kevin Maxey hit a solo home run to give the Flames a quick run. After Daniel Arellano and Mario Gonzalez walked, Alex Rodriguez came to bat. The sophomore, who got the start in place of the injured Adrian Flores, belted an absolute bomb three-run home run to put the Flames up 4-0.
That was enough for the Arellano and the Flames as they took game two of the regional 6-2.
It all came down to game three between Bethesda and St. Katherine's with the winner punching their ticket to the World Series.
The Flames would again strike early with a big first inning. After starter Benjamin Lopez set down the Firebirds in order, Nathan Munoz started the rally with a leadoff single. After a strikeout, Munoz stole second. Daniel Arellano drove in Munoz with a double to make it 1-0 Flames. After an Adrian Flores and Alex Rodriguez walk, Daniel Gutierrez came through with a two run double off the top of the wall in left field to make it 3-0 Flames.
The Firebirds threatened in the third inning. With a runner on second and a base hit to center, the Firebirds tested the arm of Flames centerfielder Kevin Maxey. Maxey delivered a laser throw from center to cut down the rally.
The 3-0 score would remain until the bottom of the fifth. After two strikeouts, Kevin Maxey started a two-out rally with a double to left. Arellano would single moving Maxey to third. Adrian Flores, who was unable to play the first game due to a hamstring injury and Arellano slated as the Pitcher/DH, came through with a single to center scoring Maxey. Alex Rodriguez doubled in Arellano to make it 5-0 Flames.
The Firebirds would fight back in the sixth. After two quick outs, and Benjamin Lopez cruising, the Firebirds delivered three straight hits with the latter two being home runs to cut the lead to 5-3.
In the seventh, Daniel Arellano led off with a walk, and Adrian Flores drove a single to left-center. Alex Rodriguez singled scoring Arellano and Gutierrez sacrificed the runners to second and third. After a Raul Abundis walk and Mario Gonzalez strikeout, pinch-hitter Ivan Galindo was hit by a pitch driving in the eighth run.
St. Katherine's made things interesting in the ninth. Flames closer DJ Gunderson had retired six straight in the seventh and eighth, but hit the first two batters in the ninth. A three-run home run followed and suddenly it was 8-6. Gunderson settled down and induced two groundouts and a pop out to send the Flames to the World Series.
"Very proud of our guys," said Coach Trevino. "These returners told me in September the only thing that mattered this year was getting back to Ohio. We did not do it the easy way but credit them for getting it done. Today was a total team effort. Game two we had A-Rod step up for us, had Andres Wright steal four bags, and Arellano was flat out dominant. Game three Benjamin Lopez gave us a great start, Daniel Gutierrez came through with a clutch double and DJ got us there, as we knew he would. What Adrian Flores did for us hobbling around the bases and gutting it out was something this group will talk about for a long time. We will enjoy this and get ready for Ohio."
The Flames qualify for their second straight appearance at the NCCAA World Series in Mason, Ohio. The event will take place May 24-27 at Prasco Park.