SoCal Knights Stay Perfect, Take Opening SCIFL Alliance Tournament

Written by Bob on April 1st, 2019

SoCal Knights Jesse Martinez pitched back-to-back wins in the semifinal and championship games of the So. Calif. Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL) Alliance Tournament at Los Nietos Park, Santa Fe Springs on Saturday, Mar. 30. Photo By BOB OTTO

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. – The pitching was steady, the offense efficient, the defense sure-handed and as a result the SoCal Knights claimed the Southern California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL) Alliance tournament championship at Los Nietos Park on Saturday.

The Knights broke open a tight game with three late runs to hold off the Budmen, 9-5, in the final. With the victory, the Knights extend their winning streak to a perfect 11-0 in southern California’s early fastpitch season.

Jesse Martinez hurled a six hitter with three walks and five strikeouts. After giving up four runs in the bottom of the first, the 29-year-old right-hander toughened the rest of the way, holding a one-through-nine murders row of Budmen hitters to just a lone run in fourth.

“Overall, we played solid defense,” said Knights player / manager Jason Martinez. “As a team, we didn’t tear the cover off the ball, but we were consistently getting that timely hit when we needed it, and our pitchers kept us in every game and gave us the chance to come out on top.”

The Knights (4-0) came out swinging in the first inning, scoring four times, highlighted by Eric Smalling’s triple to deep right-centerfield that chased home two runs. But the Budmen, one of the top hitting ball clubs in So. Calif., answered back in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game.

Gregor “Joko” Morgan drilled a high rise ball deep into the left-centerfield gap for a two-run homer to pull the Budmen even.

Gregor “Yako” Morgan, who plays first base, catches and patrols the outfield, and on occasion pitches, blasted a two-run homer to pull the Budmen even with the Knights in the championship game. Photo By BOB OTTO

But Martinez toughened the rest of the way by allowing a run in the fourth on Eli Salazar’s single to center that brought home Albert Garcia, who led off the inning with a clean safety to left.

The Budmen reached the title game with a big semi-final, 3-0, win over the A1 Rockies. Starter Sean Barker picked up the win, but got clutch relief from Gilbert Joiner over the last two frames.

The pair of right-handers teamed-up on a five hitter with five strikeouts, and Joiner showed his grit over the final two frames by ending both innings with strikeouts to strand Rockies runners in scoring position.

Budmen’s Gilbert Joiner is a mainstay of the pitching staff and turned in a stellar pitching performance in relief to help his ball club defeat the A1 Rockies in the semifinals of the SCIFL Alliance tournament, Saturday, Mar. 30. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2019

The Budmen broke open a scoreless duel between Barker and Rockies Cory Wertz by scoring all the three runs in the fourth. Safeties by Garcia and Michael York each plated runs, and a wild pitch sent Justin York racing home with the final run.

Meanwhile, the Knights were battling the Clarksville Coyotes (Those Guys) in the other semifinal. Jesse Martinez and the Coyotes Lumar Goss fought pitch-for-pitch, but on this day, Martinez came out on top to pick up a 3-1 win and send the Knights into the championship.

“Jesse was our horse on the mound, throwing a complete game and allowing only one run,” Jason Martinez said. “Offensively, we had our hands full going up against Lumar Goss.”

Clarksville Coyotes pitcher Lumar Goss turned in a strong performance in the semifinals of the SCIFL Alliance tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

The Knights had trouble with the right-handed, hard-throwing Goss, but they scratched out a run in the second inning on Jesse Mullen’s double that plated Eric Smalling, who reached safely on a single.

Two runs in the third gave Martinez the insurance runs he would need to hold off the Coyotes. Justin Martinez doubled, eventually scoring on a wild pitch, and Dave Hess worked Goss for a walk and raced home on a Joseph Martinez single.

“This was the first tournament for the So Cal Knights,” Jason Martinez said, “and luckily we all came out healthy and on top in all four games this weekend. We’re looking forward to the rest of the 2019 SCIFL season, and beyond.”

Beyond calls for returning to the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series in Mankato and North Mankato, Minn., Aug. 8-11. In 2018, the Knights claimed the World Series, A-Division title (7-0) and are gunning for a second title, but this time a step higher.

“Although we cannot return to the World Series A-division to defend our title, the Knights absolutely look forward to (moving up) to the A-Major Division, with our sights set on bringing another title back to Southern California,” Jason Martinez said.

    Knights Ball Park Musings

…This might be a record of some sort in men’s fastpitch as FIVE Martinez brothers play the game, including Joseph, 34, Jesse, 29, Jason, 25, and Justin, 20. And there’s also brother Anthony, whose ball playing is limited right now.
…Joseph got started playing with Anthony in Pasadena, while Jesse and Jason were introduced to the sport at Whittier Narrows under the guidance of the late Cecilio Smalling Sr., whose talented sons Eric and Cecilio Smalling, Jr. play for the Knights.
…Last but certainly not least is Justin, who got his start playing for Those Guys with manager Paul Castillo giving him his shot as he does for all kids looking to get into the fastpitch game.
Justin Martinez had the skill and the honor of playing for the USA Softball Junior National Team ,in Prince Albert, Canada at the WBSC World Championships in 2018.

Justin Martinez, 20, the youngest of five fastpitch-playing brothers, competed in the WBSC Championship in 2018 as a member of Team USA. Photo By BOB OTTO


…Like many teams, the Knights have to pay their own expenses, but they get some help from Kirk Walker, an assistant coach with the UCLA Bruins softball team.

“We are a self-sponsored team,” said Jason Martinez, “although Kirk Walker has made many generous donations to the ballclub in the form of getting us new jerseys, helmets, supplying bats, and many more. The So Cal Knights would NOT be where we are without that man (pitcher) Kirk Walker!”

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Diana Kriger says:

    Great photos and writing Bob. You really make the sport come alive for readers like me!

  2. Bob says:

    Many thanks for the compliment, and I’m happy to have you among my readers, the few but loyal that you are. We were low in numbers (6) at pball drilling today at the community center, but we got a lot accomplished. Hope all is going well for you “up north.” And I’m sure the sun will soon come out from hiding. Cheers!

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