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Crusaders overcome mistakes, early deficit to reach Connie Mack tournament final

Prior to the start of the Connie Mack state tournament, several coaches said it was any team’s tourney to win.

So it came as no surprise Friday night’s loser’s bracket final game was between the fourth-seeded Las Vegas Crusaders and eighth-seeded Las Vegas Mustangs.

The Crusaders (18-8) erupted for four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and four more in the sixth to overcome the scrappy Mustangs, 13-9. The Crusaders advance to face the second-seeded Las Vegas Mayhem in the championship at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Cameron Sepede led the Crusaders, going 3-for-3 with a double, four RBIs and two runs scored. Cruz Daddorio pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Crusaders and scored three times to help his cause, and Zach Trageton pitched the final 2 1/3 innings to earn the win.

The Crusaders, who used a 12-hit attack, had to overcome five errors, an early Mustang uprising, and a rally in the seventh inning to hang on for the win.

The Mustangs scored four runs in the top of the first inning thanks to a pair of errors by Crusaders second baseman Jason Eary, and a badly played fly ball by left fielder Justin Daraban.

The Mustangs put their first five batters on base, as leadoff hitter Eric Jordan drew a walk to start the game, Kyle Gaura reached safely on Eary’s first error of the inning and Tyler Burton walked to load the bases. Mustangs starting pitcher Jacob Johnson gave himself a 2-0 lead when he burnt Daraban with what could have been a routine fly ball. Johnson ended up on second, and Burton went to third. They both scored on Quinn Ayers’ hot shot to Eary.

The Crusaders answered with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Sepede drilled an 0-1 fastball to deep center field to bring in two, and Chad Jones later poked a two-out single to center, scoring Cruz Daddario. Sepede tried to score on the play but was gunned down at the plate by Mustangs center fielder Dustin McDonald.

In the fifth, the Crusaders loaded the bases on three consecutive walks. Jones then drilled a single down the right-field line to score two, and Jake Koentopp followed with a two-run double.

The Mustangs wouldn’t go away easily, though, scoring three in the top of the seventh before Anthony Reese was thrown out at home to end the game.

The Crusaders must win twice Saturday to earn the tournament title. The Mayhem need only one win to claim the crown. A second game, if necessary, would start at 1 p.m.

Las Vegas Mustangs 5, Southern Nevada Falcons 2 — Jordan tossed a complete game and scored twice to lead the Mustangs to a win over the top-seeded Falcons in the first game.

Jordan, who pitched around bases-loaded jams in three innings, fired a seven-hitter and struck out three. The Falcons stranded 12 runners in the game overall.

Burton went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored for the Mustangs, and teammate Gaura scored twice.

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