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July 12, 2011 > Mission Juniors squeeze by Niles

Mission Juniors squeeze by Niles

Submitted By Dustin Chiang

Battling back from the elimination bracket, Mission San Jose Little League (MSJLL) knew they had a tough road ahead needing to win three games in four days including beating undefeated Niles Centerville Little League (NCLL) twice. The road to the District 14 Junior Division crown began on Wednesday July 6, as MSJLL faced off against Centerville National Little League. Sam Lowrey, Spoorthy Vemula and Austin King combined to allow just two hits and one run in securing a 9-1 victory that put MSJLL in the championship against NCLL.

MSJLL had lost to NCLL earlier in the tournament and NCLL had not yet lost which meant that MSJLL needed two consecutive wins over NCLL to win the tournament. With this tough task at hand, MSJLL never let down. Playing at their home field at Gomes Elementary on Friday, July 8, Lowrey took the mound and was lights-out. He held NCLL to two hits and one unearned run before Jagvir Tamber came on in relief to record the final out of the game. Meanwhile, MSJLL pushed runs across the board using an aggressive running attack and timely hits to build a 4-1 lead that they held onto to win the game.

Forcing a winner-take-all championship game on July 9, MSJLL came ready to play NCLL once again on Saturday, July 8.

After Niles plated the first two runs of the game, Mission came back in the bottom of the fourth. Dustin Chiang led off the inning by drawing a walk. With one out, Chris Desiniotis singled, putting runners on first and second. An unusual fielder's choice led to Desiniotis being thrown out at second from centerfield. King, who took first as a result, promptly stole second to place runners on second and third base with two out. Jason Kinner's walk then loaded the bases before Vemula's clutch double tied the game 2-2. Jacob Walter followed with an RBI single to give MSJLL a 3-2 lead. Hanson Wang then walked to load the bases again, and Tamber lined a shot that put MSJLL up 4-2.

MSJ added a run in the bottom half after Alex Chen walked and came around to score to increase their lead to 5-2. NCLL plated two runs in the sixth to close the gap to 5-4. NCLL rallied again in the seventh inning to tie the game and threatened to score more with the bases loaded yet again and nobody out. Austin King came on in relief of Tamber and got three key outs, with help from a spectacular diving stop at shortstop by Jacob Walter, after which he threw to second for the force out that got MSJLL out of the jam.

With the score still tied at 5 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, MSJLL was poised to come up with their biggest play of the tournament. Kinner was able to work a walk to lead-off the inning. Aurick Zhou, then running at first base, stole second on a close play. A balk then advanced Zhou to third. With one out and the winning run just 90 feet away, Jacob Walter came up to bat and emerged as the hero. After hitting away and fouling off the first pitch, he executed a perfect walk-off squeeze bunt as Zhou dashed across the plate with the winning run.

MSJLL will represent District 14 as they advance to the California Section 3 Junior All-Star Tournament beginning on Saturday, July 16, at 11 a.m. at Monticello Elementary School in Tracy.

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