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August 12, 2009 > MSJ Juniors go 4-1 in regionals

MSJ Juniors go 4-1 in regionals

Eliminated on tiebreaker

Submitted By Ed Hugo

The Mission San Jose Junior Division All-Stars, representing Northern California in the Western Regional Tournament (in Aliso Viejo, CA), finished pool play Saturday, August 8, with a 4-1 record, tied for first in Pool A with two other teams (Hawaii and Southern California). Only two teams advance to the semi-Final round, and through a series of tiebreakers - which included defensive runs allowed per inning and head-to-head games - the Mission team was eliminated from the tournament.

MSJ started pool play with four straight wins against Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and powerhouse Hawaii before suffering their only loss of the tournament at the hands of a Southern California team from Ventura. The MSJLL Juniors finish the all-star tournament season with a 17-2 record having advanced further than any other MSJLL all-star team at any level in the league's history.

The winning streak culminated with a 7-2 victory over the defending Regional and US Champion from Hilo, Hawaii. Each team was 3-0 in pool play entering the game. Kevin Finch twirled a complete game, five-hitter needing only 73 pitches to record the 21 outs. He was in control the entire game as he mixed his pitches well, changing speeds, and keeping the Hawaii hitters off balance.

Finch received all of the offensive support he would need in the second inning as MSJLL broke open a scoreless tie with three runs. Scott Havard and Reid Marion led off the inning with consecutive singles; James Gaffey followed with a single of his own to drive in the game's initial run; and after a walk to load the bases, Patrick Andresen cracked a two-RBI single to left field making it 3-0 MSJLL.

Hawaii mounted their only rally of the game in the top of the fourth. Two singles sandwiched around a hit batter to lead off the inning drove in Hawaii's first run with an overthrow allowing Hawaii to plate their second run of the inning. Finch settled down and retired the final three batters of the inning allowing MSJLL to hold onto a slim 3-2 margin.

MSJLL opened it up in the sixth inning with key insurance runs, as Brandon Facha and Finch reached base to lead off. Havard then sliced an opposite field drive that reached the fence for a two-run triple. The offense concluded with Jeff Chu's single to drive in the final run of the game.

MSJLL opened up the Western Regional Tournament with an eight-inning, come-from-behind win over Idaho, 5-4. The big hit was a two-out seventh inning dramatic solo home run belted over the left field wall by Havard to tie the score at 4-4. Mission rallied for the go ahead run in the top of the eighth as Andresen's second hit of the game drove in Gaffey (who had been hit by a pitch) with the eventual winning tally. Havard and Brandon Facha combined to shut down the Idaho bats in the bottom of the eighth inning to preserve the victory.

Mission's second win was at the expense of Nevada, 10-2. Facha and Chu combined to limit Nevada to four hits while the MSJLL squad rapped out nine and played errorless defense.

Facha hurled the first six innings and was in control the entire distance. He was supported by a consistent MSJLL offense that scored at least one run in five of the six innings they came to the plate. After a scoreless first inning, the MSJLL offense began to roll as they scored three runs in the second inning on RBIs by Chu, Brandon Fuhs and Kenny Jacoby; MSJ added their fourth run in the third inning as Fuhs collected his second RBI.

With Facha cruising along on the hill, MSJLL added two more runs in the fourth inning (with Finch's opposite field double being the big blow of the inning) and three more in the fifth inning on Gaffey, Devon Jones and Ryan Mark RBI hits.

MSJLL slammed their way to a third win as they defeated Oregon, 11-3, behind a 17-hit attack including three home runs. The offensive assault began in the first inning when Facha blasted a long solo home run; Finch hit a line drive single; and Havard followed by driving the second pitch he saw over the left field fence for a quick 3-0 lead. MSJLL added two more runs in the third inning as Havard led off the inning with a double and was followed by singles from Reid Marion and Gaffey.

After Oregon cut the lead to 5-3 with three in the fourth, MSJLL spread the lead in the sixth. Jones led off the inning with a solid single. Following a hit batter and another single to load the bases, Finch lined an opposite field single to drive in two runs. Havard followed with his second homer of the game to put the game out of reach.

Mission's only loss of the tournament came from a hard-hitting attack, good pitching and flawless defense from the Southern California squad - turning into an 11-0 final score. SoCal came out fast as they scored four runs in the top of the first inning on four straight line drive hits followed by an MSJLL miscue.

SoCal broke the game open with three runs in the fifth inning and four runs in the sixth. Mission was only able to muster four hits in the game, being frustrated all game by SoCal pitching.

The Western Regional tournament continues on Monday, August 10 with Hawaii (4-1 in pool play) facing Washington (3-2) in one semi-final game, and Southern California (4-1) facing undefeated Arizona (5-0) in the other. The winners will face off in the Championship game on Tuesday to earn the right to represent the Western Region in the Junior League World Series taking place in Taylor, Michigan, August 16-22.

Editor's note: Results for the semifinals and championship were not available for press. Log onto for up-to-date results and more.

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