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Sox’s season comes to end in Compton

By Terry Bernal SM Daily Journal, 08/02/17, 5:00AM PDT

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Michael Benz twice going the distance and Aubrey Sine hitting .455 through four games was not enough for the Peninsula White Sox to advance past the Palomino West Zone Tournament.

A prestigious honor it was for the White Sox reach the West Zone in Compton for the second straight year, again coming within two wins of reaching the Palomino League World Series. But this year, with the Sox leading 4-0 in the fifth inning of a semifinal showdown with host Urban Youth Academy, a sudden swing of momentum led to a stinging 6-4 loss.

“When we were up 4-0, I thought we were winning,” White Sox manager Lenny Souza said. “I was like, ‘We’re going to the World Series.’”

It wasn’t quite as simple as winning that game to advance to the Palomino World Series, this year being hosted at Santa Clara’s Washington Park. With the White Sox advancing through the winners’ bracket, they had to be beaten twice. After Saturday’s 6-4 loss, they went on to be eliminated Sunday with a 5-3 loss to Urban Youth Academy.

And there was still the matter of the championship round, where Urban Youth Academy was eliminated with a 2-1 loss to the Los Gatos Legends.

Still, the White Sox were riding pretty high after winning their first two games — 9-0 over the Colton Nighthawks last Thursday, and an 8-2 win over Urban Youth Academy last Friday — then taking the 4-0 lead into the late innings of the semifinals.

“We had that game on lock (down),” Sine said. “And, them having the momentum switch, they took control.”

The White Sox ultimately played three straight games against Urban Youth Academy, making for a spirited rivalry between the two squads that got verbally heated at times, according to Souza.

“It was tough,” Souza said. “Game 2 was chirpy, back and forth. A couple guys got thrown out. It was back and forth. It was a really emotional game. So, the next day, we didn’t really know what to expect.”

Benz tried to calm the waters by taking the mound for the second time in four days. The right-hander out of Redwood High School-Larkspur has been the White Sox’s workhorse all summer, but coming off a two-hit shutout three days previous was a tall order.

“His pitch count was low in the first game … and he’s kind of an everyday Eddie kind of guy,” Souza said.

After surrendering four early runs, Benz proved his manager right by holding Urban Youth Academy to one run over the final five frames. And the White Sox nearly rallied to come back in the seventh when Zach Avila and Willie Reader tabbed back-to-back two-out singles, then advanced on a passed ball to put the potential tying run in scoring position. But Kevin Jacobs (San Mateo High School) followed with a fly out to left field to end the White Sox’s season.

“Everyone was a little shocked just because they had to beat us twice in a row and they ended up doing it,” Sine said. “That, and we made a lot good friendships over the summer, and it was sad it all came to an end.”

Sine went 5 for 11 with a home run in the tournament.

“He had a hell of a tournament,” Souza said.

He was matched by Jackson Driver, who also hit .455 (5 for 11).

Benz settled for a 1-1 record, but shined in the tourney opener, allowing just two hits while striking out seven against the Nighthawks. Right-hander Anthony Calvo (Aragon High School) followed with a complete-game victory, allowing five hits while striking out eight, in the Sox’s 8-2 win in the first matchup with Urban Youth Academy.

“Honestly, Urban Academy is really good,” Souza said. “We don’t have any guys who throw 88-90 mph. We’re a strike-throwing group.”

Sine and Benz both hail from the same Redwood High School, and both have made back-to-back trips to the West Zone Tournament with the White Sox.

“I thought this year we had a better team and I thought this year we had a better chance,” Sine said. “Last year we were right there; our team was good. But we had a significant shot at it this year and it just didn’t work out for us.”

While both Sine and Benz graduate out of the program after this season, the White Sox still have a solid core of players eligible to return next year. And Souza is already thinking a third straight return to Compton — and beyond.

“We’ve got eight coming back and it’s the core of the team,” Souza said. “We’re already talking about who to add for next year. We’ve seen two years in a row what it takes, what we need to get over the hump. We’re never going to have five or six Division I guys, and that’s what Urban has … but you just need to keep putting together the right guys and I think eventually we’ll get over the hump.”