The long journey has come to an end for the Palo Alto Babe Ruth 14-year-old all-stars, in so many ways.
Not only did the team travel 2-3 hours each way to Woodland (northwest of Sacramento) to play six games over a seven-day period, logging an estimated 1,400 miles, but the all-stars' final game -- perhaps appropriately -- was stretched to nine innings, as well.
When all was said and done, Palo Alto saw its season -- and travels -- end in a 4-3 loss to Tri-Valley on Friday night in the championship game of the NorCal State Tournament at Clark Field. Had Palo Alto won, it would have forced a second game to determine who advanced to next week's regional in Surprise, Ariz.
"It was a wild one," said Palo Alto scorekeeper Chris Lillios. "Both teams refused to roll over and give up. No errors on either side . . . each team manufacturing one run at a time in an inning. A great, well-played battle."
Palo Alto grabbed a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth when Tony Masetti scored on a single by Kyle Pruhsmeier. But, with the bases loaded and one out, Palo Alto could not push across an insurance run or two -- opening the door for Tri-Valley.
Palo Alto found itself just one out from victory in the bottom of the eighth, but Tri-Valley's Brendan Greim laced a screaming line to right field that rolled to the fence at 318 feet for a triple. Three pitches later, Greim scampered home on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3. The following pitch induced a comebacker to Palo Alto relief pitcher David Clarke to end the inning. It was one pitch too late.
Palo Alto went down in order in the top of the ninth and Tri-Valley was one out away from going to the 10th following a flyout to right and a strikeout. But, Mark Molz ripped a 1-0 count for a double down the third-base line for a standup double. Two pitches later, Luke O'Brien provided the winning hit when he blooped a ball into shallow center. Molz, running on contact, raced home to end Palo Alto's season.
Palo Alto took a 1-0 lead in the third when Shane Wallace scored on a single by Masetti. In the fourth, Palo Alto made it 2-0 when Tim Goode singled home Pruhsmeier. Tri-Valley scored single runs in the fourth and fifth to tie the game.
Dominic Cacchione pitched seven strong innings for Palo Alto, leaving with the score tied at 2. He allowed five hits and three walks while striking out four. Clarke gave up two runs on three hits in two innings.
Sean Young had two of Palo Alto's 10 hits as did Pruhsmeier.