LAFAYETTE — There's definitely a learning curve to winning consistently, and it seems the Holy Family Legion A baseball team is getting closer to the apex of that process.
Head coach Marc Cowell has seen a lot of positive qualities to his Tigers, but Friday's winner's bracket game of the American Legion A state tournament at Centaurus proved to be another case of battling until the end but ultimately swallowing a bitter pill.
With a three-run sixth inning propelled by an infield error from Holy Family, top-seeded Windsor escaped with a 7-6 win at Izzy Salazar Field and put Cowell's Tigers in elimination mode starting Saturday.
The Tigers trailed 2-0 early but took as much as a 6-4 lead before the Wizards stormed back with its biggest inning of the day. Having been able to answer Windsor in every way up to that point, as well, Holy Family went fairly quietly in the top of the seventh inning, setting up an elimination game against Skyline in the seven-team tournament.
"Sixth, seventh inning we've found ourselves giving up a tying or go-ahead run and just can't seem to respond or claw back," said Cowell, whose team got a strong effort pitching from rising junior Andrew Spadafora. "We're finding ways to lose right now rather than finding ways to win. But you just hope it makes you better the rest of this tournament and then in the spring."
A lightning delay in the middle of the first inning seemed to regroup HFHS after allowing a pair of runs with the help of two errors, and patience paid off as over the next three innings the Tigers were able to take a lead thanks to two bases-loaded walks, two hit batters also with the bases loaded, and a productive groundout.
Zach Becker, who went 2-for-4, singled and scored in the top of the sixth inning, and with the way Spadafora was keeping Windsor batters from squaring up on anything, a 6-4 advantage looked pretty good.
It looked better when Spadafora got the lead batter out to start the sixth. But back-to-back singles brought Windsor back to the top of the order, and a sacrifice bunt attempt by Cullen Rossow put pressure on the Holy Family defense to make a play. The throw went errantly to third base to allow a runner to score and make it 6-5, and a sacrifice fly from Owen Falsetti tied it at 6-6.
Isaac Morfin's hit right back up the middle scored Rossow to give Windsor the lead.
"We've been struggling at the end with finishing it, and this was just another example ... but as a team we competed really well, had really tough at-bats against three different pitchers and we played as a team," said Matthew Delgado, a rising senior who got an RBI the hard way Friday with a fourth-inning hit-by-pitch. "We want to do whatever it takes to get wins, but we know we compete. Spadafora, he did a phenomenal job handling that lineup."
Holy Family beat Northridge by a 10-0 score to open the tournament, but the Tigers will be looking to survive a Skyline squad that ousted Fairview earlier Friday by a score of 8-4.
"It's a double-elimination format that we hope we can use to our advantage," Cowell added. "I just expect our guys to compete to the very last out, and hopefully with some luck we'll still be there on Sunday."
Centaurus and Fort Morgan were playing the other winner's bracket game late Friday, a game which was delayed significantly from its 4:30 p.m. start time because of the weather.