By Jen Cosgriff
There's a group of excited teenagers from Palo Alto who have an important date on Friday night and they hope it leads to a championship celebration.
The Palo Alto 14-year-old Babe Ruth all-stars staved off elimination in the District 6 tournament, defeating Bel-Mateo, 7-6, at the Belmont Sports Complex on Thursday with the help of one big inning.
For most of the game, Palo Alto felt their season slipping away, as it fell behind in the first inning and faced a three-run deficit entering its final at bat.
Michael Strong led off the seventh by reaching base on an error by the Bel-Mateo shortstop, and Kyle Stewart followed it up with a single. Both runners advanced on a balk and eventually scored on outs by Jonathon Corvello and Alec Furrier to pull within a run.
Jack Cleasby singled and stole second, setting up what Palo Alto manager Ron Fried called "the key play of the game."
Alex Aguiar singled to chase Cleasby home with the tying run. As Aguiar was running to second base, the Bel-Mateo catcher attempted to throw him out and threw the ball into center field.
Aguiar raced home on the error to give Palo Alto their first lead of the contest. Strong made sure the all-stars would keep the lead, pitching a perfect bottom of the 7th to complete the improbable comeback.
"The key play was certainly Alex's hit to drive in the tying run and to score on the wild throw," said Fried. "We have done a really good job of taking the extra base on throws during this tournament and that kind of hustle lead directly to the win."
Once again, the pitching and the defense also came through for Palo Alto. Rohit Ramkumar, Casey McDonald, and Strong shut down the Bel-Mateo offense. James Foug also showed off a great glove at second base, making a diving play to save a run.
What were the keys to beating Bel-Mateo this time around?
"With the exception of the seventh inning, this game was almost a carbon copy of our first game with Bel Mateo," Fried said. "We made some mistakes early that gave Bel-Mateo the lead Â… Before the game, we talked about putting the pressure on Bel-Mateo and forcing them to beat us. It took us awhile, but we finally strung some hits together and got some breaks in the seventh. Our kids did a great job of staying positive."
Fried hopes to carry the momentum from this comeback into Friday night's winner-take-all championship game.
"They were really fired up at the end," he said. "Hopefully we can keep the positive energy going and not wait until the end of the game to make our move."
Palo Alto and Bel-Mateo meet again Friday night at 7 p.m., also at the Belmont Sports Complex. It's a date Palo Alto can't wait to keep.
District 6 15s
The Palo Alto Babe Ruth 15s advanced to the championship game of the District 6 All-Star Tournament with a 9-5 victory over Mountain View on Thursday at Baylands Athletic Center. Palo Alto will play either Mountain View or Bel-Mateo on Saturday at 4 p.m. Should Palo Alto lose, a challenge game will be played Saturday at 7 p.m., also at Baylands.
Christian Kadash tripled, doubled and singled for Palo Alto while Eric Tam tripled and doubled. Kyle Wallou added a double while Nick Wells got the win in relief.
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