Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 9, 2010

Little League teams hoping to prolong their seasons just a few more games

by Rick Chandler

In most cases, it takes five victories to win a championship in a District 52 Little League All-Star Tournament. Lose one game and the double-elimination events become that much longer. Lose twice and your season is over.

Heading into games on Thursday night, only four local teams remained in the three district majors tournaments. Only one team, Palo Alto National in 9-10s, was playing in the winners' bracket.

Thus, it has been pretty much do or die for the past two weeks as local teams have battled for survival. Those who had succeeded by Wednesday included Menlo-Atherton (11-12), Palo Alto National (10-11), Alpine/West Menlo (9-10) and Palo Alto National (9-10).

In the latest battles to keep title hopes alive:

It took six pitchers and a big rally in the seventh inning, but Menlo-Atherton lived to fight another day in the 11-12 tournament on Wednesday.

Back-to-back two-run doubles by Andrew Daschbach and Jack Gray broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning, as M-A topped Pacifica American, 6-2, in a losers'-bracket game at Ortega School in Pacifica. M-A played San Carlos on Thursday.

Three pitchers combined to strike out nine over the first five innings as M-A built a 2-0 lead. Daschbach singled home a run in the first, and Jackson Salabert doubled home Harrison Toig in the fourth for M-A's runs. But Pacifica scored two in the bottom of the sixth to tie it and send it to extra innings.

In the top of the seventh for M-A, Salabert and Mason Randall both walked and Arnaud Laprais singled to load the bases, before Daschbach delivered a drive that hit the top of the fence in right field.

"It felt good, because I had been struggling a little bit with my hitting," said Daschbach, who hit 14 home runs during the regular season, but has not yet hit one in the postseason. "Pacifica kept battling and battling, but so did we."

Gray followed Daschbach with a drive to the gap in right-center that cleared the bases and gave M-A its final margin of victory.

In an effort to preserve their pitching (M-A needs to win four games in four days to take the tournament title), M-A used a multitude of hurlers on Wednesday; the standout being Salabert, who struck out five of the six batters he faced over the third, fourth and fifth innings. Reid Fratt was the final pitcher, getting the last two outs of the game on a strikeout and a popup to first.

10-11 All-Stars

Ethan Stern got things off to a good start with a leadoff home run to set the tone for Palo Alto National in its 7-1 victory over host San Mateo National in the 10-11 All-Star Tournament on Wednesday.

The big story for the PA National squad was the performance of pitcher Ryan Chang, who went 5 1/3 innings while giving up just one hit, one walk and no runs. Throughout the game, Chang kept the San Mateo all-stars off balance with a steady diet of low fast balls and changeups.

Chang's pitching exploits were supported by another strong defensive effort. In the past two games, the Palo Alto squad has committed only two errors and allowed two walks. The defensive effort was highlighted by two double plays with Stern turning the plays at second. Brian Tracy was steady behind the plate, blocking balls and calling a great game.

In the third, Palo Alto picked up one more run with back to back hits from Riley Schoeben and Alec Olmstead. The game was still in doubt until the bottom of the fifth when Palo Alto added three runs off of a single by Tommy Smale and a clutch double by Peter Snodgrass. In the top of the sixth, the scrappy San Mateo National team tried to mount a comeback off a Palo Alto error and an RBI double, but Smale got the final two outs to end the game with a clutch relief job.

The win sends Palo Alto National into the championship series with Belmont-Redwood Shores, the only unbeaten team in the tournament. In its run through the losers' bracket, Palo Alto National team has won five games in a row, scoring 42 runs while allowing just three. Palo Alto will need to keep the momentum going for two more games to knock out the Belmont Redwood-Shores team and take the District 52 title.

The first championship game was Thursday and the final game, if necessary, will be on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

9-10 All-Stars

Alpine/West Menlo remained alive while ending Palo Alto American's season with a 15-11 victory in extra innings on Wednesday in the District 52 Tournament in Belmont.

Palo Alto took the lead in 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning when Bradley Smith homered. It was the first of his two homers in the game. It was a close game until the fifth inning when Alpine jumped ahead 10-5.

Palo Alto still trailed by five runs heading into the bottom of the sixth inning before tallying five times to tie the game.

Cole Mantovani led off with a single before the No. 8 and 9 batters struck out. With two outs and down by five, Palo Alto rallied and had the winning run on third when a groundout to third base ended the rally. Spencer Rojahn's double gave Palo Alto a 10-10 deadlock.

In the seventh, Alpine scored five runs on a combination of bloop hits, three Palo Alto errors, two singles and a home run by Alpine's Griffin McGarry. He had a single, two doubles and home run in his 4-for-5 night.

Down by five once again, Palo Alto flew out to centerfield twice in a row then rallied and scored a run before finally grounding out to end the wild game. Sean Young had four singles for Palo Alto.

Alpine/West Menlo faced Hillsborough on Thursday. That winner still needs to win on Friday and Saturday to reach Sunday's noon championship game. Palo Alto National is in the winners' bracket, and next plays Friday at 5 p.m.

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