SELMA  -  Coming into the 63rd annual Selma Greater Kiwanis Baseball Classic, the Selma Bears were playing as good as any team in the Central Valley.

Behind timely hitting, solid pitching, and resiliency, Selma claimed a first place finish at the 63rd annual tournament after defeating Immanuel 16-6 on April 17 in the championship game at Allen Cropsey Diamond at Bobby Cox Field.

The Bears co-hosted the tournament with Immanuel High School with games being held at Selma High and the Immanuel Sports Complex on April 15-17.

Selma defeated McLane, San Leandro, Madera South, Yosemite, and Immanuel, in that order, to claim the championship. The Bears championship victory was a mercy-shortened game that ended in five innings.

“Offensive explosion the whole tournament,” Selma head coach John Hollett Jr. said about his team’s performance. “Last week, we started hitting the ball really hard and we were talking about that. Saying ‘We’re almost there, we’re almost there’ and at this tournament we did a good job of hitting and pitching.”

The Bears extended it’s winning streak to a season-high of eight games after its successful run at the tournament.

Heading into the championship game, both Selma (19-3, 8-1 CSL) and Immanuel (20-4, 8-1 CSL) went 4-0 in the tournament. At that point, the Bears outscored its opponents 37-12 while the Eagles run differential was 39-7.

“This is kind of a rivalry with Immanuel, we always go heads up because we know we’re the best in the [Central Sequoia League],” Selma catcher Ryan Naranjo said. “So we always want to beat them with the best we got. So it feels good to get this win and go back into league hot-and-ready, on fire.”

The tournament final started with both teams scoring a combined 14 runs in the first two innings. The Bears scored four runs each in the first and second innings to take a 8-0 lead. In the bottom half of the second inning, Immanuel scored six runs to make it a two-run game at 8-6.

In the first and second innings, Selma batted one time through the lineup. The Eagles had 10 at-bats in the second inning. Selma batted in the top half of every inning due to Immanuel having the top seed in the tournament.

Both teams went on to be held scoreless in the third and fourth innings.

“Our mindset was we know that this team could put up some runs, so we had to get as much runs as we could,” Naranjo said. “So we just had to keep it on them, pedal to the medal, just keep it on them. Get as much runs and hold them.”

Isaiah Gastelum, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, led off the fifth inning with a walk. His second time at the plate in the inning was the at-bat that earned him the award.

The junior hit a bases-clearing double that increased Selma’s run total to 16. Gastelum ended the game hitting 2-for-2 with five RBIs and two walks.

The Bears scored eight times with a total of 13 at-bats in the fifth inning.

“Anybody on the team could’ve got it,” Gastelum said about winning the tournament’s MVP award. “It was more of a team win because we put up what? 16? That’s a team win for us. It’s not just an individual.”

Eddie Avalos was the winning pitcher for Selma, who pitched a complete-game in the five inning contest. Outside of the Eagles’ sixth-run output in the second inning, Avalos held Immanuel scoreless in the other four.

The six runs allowed is tied for the most Selma has given up in a game all season. The other time the Bears allowed six runs was its prior game in the tournament against Yosemite, which occurred earlier that day.

In Selma’s game against the Yosemite, the Badgers went up on the scoreboard 3-0 after several miscues from the Bears. Yosemite scored once in the first inning and twice in the second on three separate errors from Selma.

The Bears got on the board with a sacrifice fly from Nick Lopez in the second inning. Naranjo scored from third on the play as a pinch runner.

After the Badgers added three more runs in the fifth inning, Selma didn’t go away down 6-1.

The Bears showed resilience by scoring six runs in the sixth inning to take a 7-6 lead, which would be the game’s final score.

Leo Arreguin knocked in the go-ahead two-run double that put Selma up. Rene Hernandez (two-run double), Aaron Aguilar (RBI walk), and Adam Rodriguez (RBI single) knocked in the Bears’ other runs in the inning.

“That inning, no one gave up,” Gastelum said. “We took it one at-bat at a time, one base at a time. We just kept going, kept the momentum, we kept going. For us as a team, that just keeps building and that built on this game [against Immanuel] where we just went out.”

Up next

Selma will aim to stay atop the Central Sequoia League standings at home against Exeter tonight at 7 p.m. After, the Bears will take on Immanuel again, but this time it’ll be a league matchup on the road on Friday at 7 p.m. The winner in that game could potentially take sole possession of first place in the CSL standings depending on the Selma and Exeter result.

The Bears’ final two games of the regular season will be at home including a non-league matchup against Firebaugh on April 30 and a CSL rivalry contest versus Kingsburg on May 2.

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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