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July 31, 2012 > Northern California championship recap

Northern California championship recap

By Kenny Jacoby and Ed Hugo, Photo by Mike Heightchew

Mission San Jose Little League (MSJLL) hosted the Division II Major All-Star tournament July 21-28, essentially the Northern California championships for the Major division (11-12 year-old). Winner of this tournament would advance to the Western Regional Tournament, in which state champion teams from the west region face off. The Western Regional tournament champion becomes Team West, advancing to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. At this level, teams from all over the world compete. All Little League World Series games are covered extensively on ESPN.

In double elimination play, two losses removes a team from competition. The first loss causes a team to drop into an elimination bracket, where they must win all remaining games in order to advance. In round one, Petaluma National Little League (PNLL) dismantled Turlock National Little League (TNLL) by the score of 17-0, sending TNLL to the elimination bracket. River Park Little League (RPLL) also smashed Sutter Buttes Little League (SBLL) 10-2. The final round one competition was close as Lakeside Little League (LLL) defeated Quito Little League (QLL) 6-5 on a walk off home run from the ninth place hitter, Derek Galvan.

PNLL advanced to play San Ramon Little League (SRLL) in round two. SRLL drew a first round bye, so this was their first game. SRLL's rustiness showed in this game, as they lost in a slugfest to PNLL 16-8. LLL played RPLL in the other winner's bracket game, and RPLL continued their dominant ways, winning 12-4. Meanwhile, in the elimination bracket, QLL shut out SBLL 12-0, knocking SBLL out of the tournament. QLL's starting pitcher Jason Munsch faced twelve batters in the outing, and struck out eleven. The only batter that got on base for SBLL reached on an error. The game ended by the mercy rule in four innings.

In the third round of the tournament, two more teams were eliminated. LLL sent TNLL home after a nail-biting 4-3 victory. In addition, SRLL knocked out QLL after winning by the score of 9-6. In the semi-final of the winner's bracket, PNLL faced RPLL. Both teams were 2-0 entering the game, and each had an outrageous amount of runs scored. PNLL had scored 33 runs already, and RPLL had scored 22. However, it was PNLL's day, as they shut out RPLL by the score of 15-0. The game ended in four innings, as PNLL's pitchers Danny Marzo, Logan Douglas, and Bradley Smith combined to toss a no-hit shutout, with only two walks allowed and nine strikeouts. PNLL advanced to the championship game with the victory, and would have to lose twice to be eliminated, while only needing to win once to advance.

In the elimination bracket, SRLL crushed LLL 10-0, knocking them out of the tournament and advancing to the elimination bracket semi-final, where they would play RPLL. SRLL rode the momentum from their victory against LLL to defeat RPLL 9-1. After losing their first game to PNLL, SRLL won three straight games to earn their way back to a rematch against PNLL. SRLL would have to win twice against PNLL, who had outscored their opponents 48-8 up to that point. However, SRLL had scored all eight of those runs against PNLL.

This is the third year in a row that these two teams have met in Little League's California Division II finals. In 2010, SRLL defeated PNLL to take the 9/10-year old California Division II crown. PNLL bounced back in 2011 to take the 10/11-year old championship by coming from the elimination bracket to defeat SRLL twice. Though many expected PNLL to run away with the win, this was not the case. After several lead changes throughout the game, SRLL was down 7-6 in the bottom of the sixth and final inning; their tournament life on the line. With one out and runners on second and third, Nic McCambridge saved the day, stinging a line drive ground ball that the second baseman could not handle, scoring both the tying and winning runs, and ending the game with a final score of 8-7. This sent both teams to the winner-take-all "what if" game the next day.

In the final game of the tournament SRLL got off to an early lead. Four different SRLL batters launched solo home runs, giving SRLL a 4-0 lead. PNLL wouldn't get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the third, when an RBI single closed the gap to 4-1. In the top of the fourth, SRLL responded as Ryan Cole cracked a three-run home run that bounced off the top of the fence and over, increasing SRLL's lead to 7-1. An RBI fielder's choice then knocked in another runner who had reached on a line drive double of the fence in right, making the score 8-1 in favor of SRLL.

In the bottom of the fifth, PNLL began mounting their improbable comeback. It started as Chase Tomei bombed a two-run home run over the centerfielder fence, and the next batter, Porter Slate, went back-to-back with another home run, decreasing the deficit to 8-4. PNLL scored two more after an RBI single and bases loaded walk, and then Tomei smacked a two-run bases loaded double for his second hit and fourth RBI of the inning, tying the game at 8-8 going into the sixth.

In the top of the sixth, with two outs and runners on second and third, SRLL's Ben Wooldridge slapped a ground ball in the hole between third and short, knocking in both runs and giving SRLL a 10-8 advantage. Then Matt Jew lined a single past the diving second baseman, scoring Wooldridge and setting the score at 11-8. SRLL entered the bottom of the sixth with a three-run lead; PNLL found themselves once again with their backs up against the wall.

To lead off the bottom of the sixth, Logan Douglas came up with a single and a double to start the inning. A fielder's choice knocked in the runner from third, and made the score 11-9. The next batter, Kempton Brandis then demolished a two-run home run, dramatically tying the game at 11-11. Three straight hits from PNLL then loaded the bases with one out. Needing only a base hit to win the game, the next batter then chopped a ground ball to the third baseman Zach Chalmers, who stepped on third and threw to first for a clutch inning-ending double play, sending the game into extra innings.

With a year's worth of drama already packed into this one game, the game entered the seventh inning with the Northern California championship on the line. Dylan Moore pitched for PNLL and retired the first three batters he saw, putting the outcome in the hands of the PNLL sluggers. With one out, Douglas got on base with his fourth single of the game. He moved to second on a wild pitch, and Marzo moved him to third on another single. Then Bradley Smith smashed a single over the shortstop, scoring Douglas and capturing the crown for PNLL in a game for the ages.

After a nail-biting, offensive-powered tournament that included 13 games and 50 home runs, Petaluma National Little League emerged as champions and will head to San Bernardino representing Team NorCal in the Western Regionals.

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