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June 21, 2011 > D14 TOC underway

D14 TOC underway

By Gary van den Heuvel, Photo by Mike Heightchew

It was nearly all A's in the final of the District 14 Junior Tournament of Champions Little League baseball tournament, except for a gutsy 7th inning rally by the Niles-Centerville Giants. The Giants' four-run seventh gave them a 7-4 win over the Centerville-American A's and propelled them into the tournament final against... the A's. But these A's are representing Fremont-American Little League (FALL), and have laid waste to their tourney opponents by a combined score of 39-4.

And the way these A's win games is what drives their opponents bonkers; they play offense as if being consulted by Oakland A's G.M., the guru of on-base percentage, Billy Beane himself. When at bat, they take, they look at pitches, they foul off junk they don't like. As a Little League strategy, this is perfect. Most 13-year-old pitchers aren't ready to grind on every pitch the way that the Fremont-American A's batters are, and what results is a logjam of A's base runners, and an opposing pitcher who's feeling like he's pitched about 20 pitches too many.

The FALL A's made their statement early on in, in their opening round game against Newark American Little League's Orioles at Newark Memorial High School (June 17). In the bottom of the first inning, the A's worked Newark-American for 70 pitches, including five walks, several wild pitches, a few passed balls, and probably 20 pitches which hit the backstop. At the end of the inning, the A's led 11-0.

Meanwhile, A's starting pitcher Ryan Briscoe kept the Orioles off-balance with the movement on his pitches. The A's batters continued to exhibit their Buddha-like patience at the plate, continued to wear down the opposing pitcher, and continued to increase their lead. When the game was called at the end of the fifth inning, Fremont-American was a lock by a 19-3 score.

In the Father's Day semifinal game at Gomes Elementary School, the A's batting discipline had their opponents, the Newark National Giants, muttering to themselves and questioning the home-plate umpire's judgment. For the A's, it was business as usual; they scratched out a run in the first inning by working four walks. It was Drew Garing's bases loaded walk which scored Sean Root.

In the second inning, the A's again loaded the bases with three walks (to Dillon Webber, Andrew Jenkerson and Root), but the Giants were able to pitch out of the jam, and it looked as if this game might turn into a pitcher's duel.

Until the next inning. With two out, the A's quietly went about their business, taking pitches, waiting for something good, and before too long, the bases were loaded again. Andrew Jenkerson drew the fourth walk in the inning to score the A's second run. Root came to the plate next and promptly drew a walk for an RBI. Ted Medina stepped up and delivered a two-run single. Fielding gaffes, by the Giants catcher on a dropped third strike and errant throw to first, and a badly thrown ball on a grounder to third, scored more runs for Fremont-American. By the end of the inning, the score was 8-0, and the game ended with a score of 20-1.

A few minutes away at Vallejo Hills School, another A's-Giants clash was taking place, this one between the Centerville-American A's and the Niles-Centerville Giants. The A's broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning on a Josh Jones single which drove in Zach Wallace. But the Giants seemed to channel their major league counterparts and waged a dramatic seventh inning rally. Basil Nite led off by walking and stealing second. David Williams quickly tied the game with a double. An infield error scored Williams, and Tony Chavez ripped a double to left-center to drive in another run. At inning's end, the score was 7-4 Giants, and the A's went down quietly in the bottom of the frame.

The tournament final, between the Fremont-American A's, and the Niles-Centerville Giants, will be played on Tuesday, June 21.

D14 also had its Minors, Majors and Seniors division open up their TOCs on June 18. In the Minors, it was Centerville National, Niles-Centerville, Newark American and Mission San Jose prevailing; in Majors action, Centerville National, Centerville American, Newark American and Niles-Centerville won their first-round matches; and in the Seniors division, a four-team bracket with two MSJ teams and two Niles-Centerville teams, both the MSJ and N-C top-tier teams were triumphant. For scores to those matches, and the upcoming schedule of TOC and D14 All-Star Tourneys, log onto the Tri-City Voice Sports website, http://sports.tricityvoice.com.

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