LOS ANGELES — Rio Ruiz felt a rush of emotions as he trotted around the bases Friday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
The La Puente Bishop Amat junior third-baseman had just slugged a two-run homer into the right-field seats to give the Lancers their first runs in a 7-0 victory against Palm Desert in the Southern Section Division 4 championship game.
His excitement bubbled over as he touched third base and headed for home, but he was also still absorbing the loss of a close friend earlier in the day, Austin Lacy, who succumbed to an undisclosed illness while undergoing treatment in Maryland.
“I was like, ‘That’s for you, man. I know you’re watching down on me and my team and I know you’re going to help us get through this game,’ " Ruiz said.
Lacy played football with Ruiz during the 2009 season before suffering a heart ailment in March of last year and then transferring to Pasadena at the start of this school year. Ruiz and several teammates had remained close despite Lacy’s departure.
They received the news of his death shortly before the game.
“We all wanted to win it for him,” Ruiz said.
The second-seeded Lancers escaped two scoring opportunities by top-seeded Palm Desert in the first two innings, throwing out Palm Desert center-fielder Ryan Garvey at the plate to end the first and getting a bases-loaded double play to end the second.
Palm Desert starting pitcher Brooks Kriske (11-2) then walked his third batter of the game with one out in the top of the third, bringing Ruiz to the plate. Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto put on a hit-and-run and Ruiz more than came through, driving the ball about 15 rows up between the foul pole and the bullpen.
“My job right there is just to protect the runner,” Ruiz said. “Good things happen when you put the bat on the ball. I didn’t really get to see it but the feeling off the bat, I thought it was going to go.”
The Lancers play in a spacious park that surrendered only two home runs by the home team this season. Ruiz estimated the right-field corner is about five or six feet deeper at Dodger Stadium.
“To hit one here, me and my dad were talking about in the dugout, that’s was one of the greatest feelings I ever had,” he said.
Kriske continued to struggle with his control, walking two more runners in the fourth that eventually led to two runs and a 4-0 lead. The Aztecs walked eight batters in all.
“I got excited and with all the adrenaline pumping, I left everything up,” Kriske said.
In the other dugout, Bishop Amat left-hander Daniel Zamora (6-0) was humming along after the second inning, allowing just one infield hit before he was relieved with two outs in the seventh.
Garvey, the son of former Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey, doubled in his first at-bat but was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from second on an infield error.
“It was all about execution and they executed better,” Garvey said.
Garvey did leave Dodger Stadium with one memory he'll long cherish. He played the final inning of his high school career at first base, where his dad played for 14 seasons. He’s expected to go high in the Major League Baseball draft next week.
As for Ruiz, look for his name to be listed among the top draft prospects next season. He certainly displayed major league power against Palm Desert.