Justo pitches Monroe over rival George Washington

James Monroe didn’t try to fool itself by calling its matchup with George Washington just another game.

The Eagles baseball team wanted to hand their rival it first league loss of the season and avenge and earlier defeat in the Monroe Tournament final. They accomplished their objectives by beating host George Washington 4-3 in a AAA crossover game on Monday afternoon.

The victory could give Monroe a higher seed in the PSAL playoffs after handing George Washington ace Wesley Rodriguez his first loss of the season.

“With George Washington beating us in the tournament this year, we owe them,” said James Monroe baseball coach Mike Turo.

Eagles ace Francisco Justo got a chance show off his stuff with a number of Major League scouts and executives on hand to watch the Bronx native Rodriguez. Former Mets general manager Omar Minaya, now the Senior VP of Baseball Operations for the San Diego Padres and Indians director of Latin American operations Ramon Pena were among the notables in attendance.

Justo did his part by throwing 6 2/3 innings and striking out eight hitters. He almost pitched a complete game, but he couldn’t since he would exceed the PSAL pitch count limit of 104 pitches. Turo had no choice but to take his prized starter out of the game and insert Matthew Pinero to close the game with an out to go.

“Francisco was locked in all day,” Turo said. “We told him to throw strikes and stay focus of what we had to do.”

It could have been easy for Justo to lose focus after giving up a two-out, two-run home run to Ronald Puente in the fourth inning that enabled George Washington (14-1) to tie the score at 2-2. He stopped the damage there however.

“I had to concentrate and get the last out,” Justo said. “I knew my hitters would bail me out next inning.”

James Monroe (15-1) broke the tie by scoring two runs in the fifth. Joel Paulino started the frame with a triple, and Robin Adames delivered an RBI double that scored Paulino to put his team ahead for good.

“I was looking to make contact,” Adames said.” “I was hoping I hit enough to score the runner home.”

Jason Pineda’s RBI triple scored Eddy Gonzalez, who was the pinch-runner for Adames. That extended James Madison’s lead to 4-2.

“I knew we needed to get as many runs as possible because we knew George Washington can score late,” Pineda said of what was the decisive run.

George Washington got a run back in the seventh when Leandy doubled and scored after advancing to third on Kelvin Puello’s ground out. Monroe didn’t let it do any more damage.

“We have faced many great pitchers in the city, and we beat them,” Adames said. “This win gives us a boost that we can beat anyone in the playoffs.”

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