Coming off a 10-5 win in Thursday's opening contest, Palo Alto's Saturday evening game against Belmont Blue proved to be a 180-degree turn in performance for the local Babe Ruth 15-year-old all stars.
"It's a good ball club we played against," Palo Alto manager Bob Budelli said. "We just didn't hit enough tonight to win."
While the loss put Palo Alto in the position that it needs to win three straight to capture the district title, the all-stars already have clinched a berth in the upcoming NorCal State Tournament, as another team (reportedly Eureka) has dropped out.
Thus, Palo Alto was still a winner on Saturday despite losing.
Palo Alto's offensive woes were exasperated by the fine pitching of Belmont starter Andrew Yarak. The hurler from Hillsdale High pitched a complete game, striking out five while walking just three batters.
"(Yarak) had a dirty curveball working," Palo Alto catcher Ryan Chang said. "We are a good hitting team, we just didn't hit today. We'll get him next time."
Yarak also paced Belmont's offensive attack with two hits, including a key two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning that helped break the game open.
Griff Byer started on the mound for Palo Alto, but lasted only two innings, giving up five runs on four hits and three walks. Budelli was still pleased with Byer's overall performance, and was especially happy just to see the young pitcher back on the rubber.
"Byer plays for me in high school ball (at Palo Alto High) and he had an injured shoulder most of the season," Budelli said. "He gave us a nice couple of innings tonight."
Byer had trouble finding the strike zone at times, a common trait for all the Palo Alto pitchers in the game, as the staff combined to walk nine hitters in total.
"Tonight we went with some different pitching to get some kids experience," said Budelli, whose relievers in the game included Angus Stayte, Troy Siegler and Jason Huang. "We are limited in the number of arms we have."
Another area Palo Alto struggled was controlling Belmont's running game, as the visitors swiped eight bags, including six in the first two innings alone.
"I should have done a better job today with that," said Chang, who is slated to be the starting pitcher in Palo Alto's next contest. "Our pitchers can maybe do a better job of varying their timing. It's just small things that we need to fix."
Down 5-1 early in the ballgame, Palo Alto's best chance to come back came in the bottom of the second inning.
Byer led off the inning with a walk, Andrew Tom singled, and Stayte reached on an error by Belmont shortstop David Badet to load the bases with only one out.
However, Yarak picked up his Belmont teammate in a big way, striking out Brian Tracy and Xavier Loinez to end the Palo Alto threat.
Despite the resounding defeat, Palo Alto's hopes of winning the District 6 tournament are still alive.
Palo Alto will next play Mountain View on Monday at 7 p.m. in a single-elimination game, with the winner advancing to take on Belmont Blue in the championship series on Wednesday, starting at 5:30 p.m.
For Palo Alto to take home the championship, it will need to win two consecutive games against Belmont.
Despite the arduous task ahead, Budelli still had positive words for his team after the game.
"I told them to enjoy the experience," Budelli said. "It's all part of the journey -- make the best of it."
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