A little adversity from time to time never hurts anyone.
For the Carson Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-stars, it made their championship celebration at Governor's Field all the sweeter on Friday night.
Carson came out of the losers bracket of the Babe Ruth State Tournament and swept a doubleheader from Fallon, winning 15-3 and 10-6, to capture their third championship in as many years.
Scott DeFriez pitched three shutout innings to pick up his second tournament win, Mike Handley reached base on four straight at-bats and scored all four times and Cameron Leck drove in four runs as Carson won the opener in five innings on Field 6.
Carson rallied back from 3-0 and 6-5 deficits to win the final. Handley pitched three-plus innings of scoreless relief and DeFriez came on to strikeout five straight batters to close out the win.
This group had already won Babe Ruth state titles in the 13- and 14-year-old divisions. Now, they have the 15-year-old championship, too.
"Yeah, it's real nice to win this," Handley said. "We didn't expect to be in the losers bracket, but it happens."
Unlike the other two championship years, Carson had to come back the long way after it dropped a 5-3 verdict to Chad Fiske and Fallon on Wednesday night.
"It might have been one of the best things for them," said Carson manager Dan Leck, whose squad now advances to the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament in El Segundo, Calif. "They've been in tough ball games the last two years, but they haven't had to come back through the losers bracket, and this demonstrates the integrity of these kids in that they decided they really wanted to play. Fallon did not make a lot of mistakes. We had to beat them with good, hard baseball."
Down 6-5 going to the fifth, Carson scored five runs to take the lead for good in the second game. Cameron Leck doubled off the base of the center field fence to lead off the inning and came home to tie the score when Bubba Shoaf singled past third base. Shoaf scored the go-ahead run on a fielder's choice.
Carson erased a 3-0 deficit in the third, highlighted by Handley's leadoff triple, a two-run homer by DeFriez and Leck's solo homer that hit off the roof of the shed beyond the left field fence on Field 6.
"Those two home runs got it going. That was the spark, I thought," Handley said.
Fallon had taken a 3-0 lead in the second inning on J.P. Tye's three-run homer off the light standard in left field. Fallon scored three more runs in the bottom of the third to go up 6-5 before Handley came on to retire three straight batters and escape from the jam.
Handley hit the first two batters he faced in the sixth, but DeFriez came on to retire the side on two strikeouts and a rundown play. DeFriez struck out the side in the seventh, extending his streak of scoreless innings in the tournament to 12.
Fallon's Fiske was gutsy in his third pitching performance of the tournament. He threw the distance, allowed 14 hits and struckout seven on a night when he threw 150 pitches.
"My heart goes out to that kid," Leck said. "He still had pretty decent velocity and pretty good stuff in the seventh inning. He did a heckuva job."
Carson started fast in the opener. Mike Handley drew a walk to lead off the first inning, Ricky Adams lined a single to center and Eric Melendez reached on an infield hit to load the bases. Scott DeFriez and Jake Rasner drew successive walks to plate two runs and Cameron Leck hit a ground ball single through the left side of the infield to drive two more runs home and give Carson a 4-0 lead.
Carson extended its lead to 7-0 with three more runs in the second.
Again, Handley got it started with a ground rule double to center field and then scored when Adams singled to center. Jake Rasner reached on an error and Leck followed with a pop fly double into short left field that drove two runs home.