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Unseeded Crespi baseball upsets top-seeded Aquinas in Division 2 semifinals

SAN BERNARDINO — It was a task that senior Joshua Rodriguez had been asked to perform plenty of times before.

But never with this much on the line.

Aquinas’ left fielder Mason Greenhouse runs down a fly ball hit by Crespi’s Diego Velasquez during the first inning in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Crespi third baseman Joshua Rodriguez tags out Aquinas Eric Bitonti to end the first inning in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Aquinas starting pitcher Owen Egan delivers a pitch to the plate against Crespi in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Aquinas’s Landon Young dives safely back to first base during a pick off attempt in the first inning against Crespi in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Crespi ’s Christopher Arce, left, and Troy Miller, right, each call for an infield pop fly against Aquinas in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Crespi starting pitcher Diego Velasquez brings a pitch to the plate against Aquinas in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Aquinas Eric Bitonti, left, reacts after being tagged out stealing by Crespi third baseman Joshua Rodriguez to end the first inning in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Aquinas starting pitcher Owen Egan delivers a pitch to the plate against Crespi in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Aquinas Nate Christman celebrates as he crosses the plate after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against Crespi in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Crespi starting pitcher Diego Velasquez brings a pitch to the plate against Aquinas in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Aquinas Nate Christman, center left, celebrates with teammate Seth Rajacich, center right, after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against Crespi in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Crespi starting pitcher Diego Velasquez brings a pitch to the plate against Aquinas in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Aquinas’s Landon Young dives safely back to first base during a pick off attempt in the first inning against Crespi in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May. 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Crespi’s Nicholas Kougher, left, is congratulated by teammate Christopher Arce, center, after scoring on a balk call in the fourth inning against Aquinas in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Aquinas hosts Crespi in a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball semifinal game. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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Rodriguez’s perfect squeeze bunt drove in the go-ahead run and unseeded Crespi upset top-seeded Aquinas 5-3 in eight innings Tuesday afternoon in a CIF-SS Division 2 semifinal at Aquinas High School.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that our guys didn’t quit,” Crespi coach Mike Glendenning said. “They kept plugging and stayed with the game plan. It wound up working out for us.”

Crespi (20-7-3) will play second-seeded South Hills in the championship game at Long Beach’s Blair Field on Friday or Saturday.

With the score 3-3 in the top of the eighth, Nathaniel Lopez led off with a double to left and advanced to third on a throwing error.

After the next batter struck out against Eric Bitonti, Rodriguez came to the plate and the squeeze bunt sign came.

“Everybody one through nine in our lineup knows that when we get in that situation, that’s what we’re going to do,” Glendenning said.

The bunt crept up the first base line and held to the grass and Rodriguez reached base on the bunt single, scoring an insurance run later in the inning.

Crespi senior Joshua Rodriguez talks about his game-winning squeeze bunt and beating Division 2 top-seeded Aquinas 5-3 in 8 innings Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/BRqFkMUzgv

— Pete Marshall (@PeteMarshallLaw) May 17, 2023

“They thought it was going foul. They left it, allowed him to score, and there goes the game,” Rodriguez said.

The runs were the first earned runs allowed by Bitonti this season.

Tyler Walton retired the Falcons’ 2-3-4 batters in order in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the win.

Aquinas (25-5) had rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the sixth inning against Crespi ace Diego Velasquez. Bitonti led off with a single and went to third on a double by Nate Christman, who homered earlier in the game. Mason Greenhouse’s groundout made it 3-2 then Esteban Olazaba singled past the drawn-in infield to tie the score.

But Olazaba was then picked off first base and the Falcons didn’t get another base runner past first base the rest of the game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys and the grueling season that we had,” Aquinas coach Mike Carpentier said. “I’ll put our schedule up against anybody’s in the country. Crespi played a great game today, had some timely hitting. We left some runners on and didn’t have the timely hitting.”

Crespi broke a scoreless tie in the third inning when an RBI double by Landon Hodge and an RBI single by Ethan Kodama made it 2-0 against Owen Egan.

The lead grew to 3-0 in the fourth when Nicholas Kougher led off with a single, went to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a bunt by Rodriguez and scored on a balk.

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