Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 1, 2011

Palo Alto all-stars taking different paths

Palo Alto National 11-12s advance in winners' bracket while Palo Alto American battles through consolation bracket

by James Huber

It's one game down and a lot more to go for the Palo Alto National 11-12 all-stars in the District 52 Little League Tournament at Palo Alto's Middlefield Ballpark.

For Palo Alto American, it's two games down and potentially even more to go as the team battles its way through the consolation bracket.

Palo Alto American took advantage of a barrage of wild pitches, passed balls, walks and errors to defeat Redwood City American, 9-4, on Wednesday night at Middlefield Ballpark in the consolation bracket of the double-elimination tourney.

PA American's starting pitcher Amit Rao came around to score in the first inning with the help of two passed balls and a wild pitch after hitting a leadoff single to start the game.

In the next inning, PA American tacked on two more runs with a little more help from Redwood City American's sloppy play. Xavi Loinaz walked and Matt Knowles was hit by a pitch to start off the inning. Loinaz scored on a wild pitch and Knowles was driven in by an RBI single from Rao.

"We're generally pretty aggressive on the base paths," said Palo Alto American manager Joe Adams, whose team had three stolen bases. "I wish our hitting had come around, but we took advantage of the opportunities in front of us."

Palo Alto was able to score four runs in the fifth with a two-out rally. Rao and Jake Rittman both reached base on errors by Redwood City's infielders and were brought home by shortstop Jason Huang's RBI single.

PA American added on two more runs the next inning despite not recording a hit. P.J. Wisowaty and Steven Marinkovich scored on the same play when the ball got by the catcher and the throw home was mishandled by Redwood City's pitcher.

Palo Alto American also got strong pitching efforts from Rao (the winner), Sam Feldman and Rittman. PA American pitchers each struck out four hitters, with all of Rittman's outs coming on strikeouts, and only allowed two earned runs on the night.

"This was Amit's first game pitching in the tournament," said Adams. "He did everything the coaches asked for tonight. Amit threw strikes and located the fastball on the outside corner."

In the fourth inning, Rao also made a nice play in right field to end a Redwood City rally. Redwood City appeared to score its second run of the inning when Roberto Alarcon singled, which would have scored Adrian Lopez from second base, but Rao gunned down Alarcon at first base with a strong throw from right field.

Palo Alto also rebounded nicely after allowing a deep solo home run to Adrian Villa in the first inning, fanning him three times afterward.

"We just went right after him with fastballs after the home run," Adams said.

Palo Alto American next plays the loser of the game between San Carlos American and Belmont/Redwood Shores at Middlefield on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Palo Alto National also will play Saturday, taking on San Carlos National at 10 a.m. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Palo Alto National began its defense of last year's District 52 tournament title as 10-11 year olds with a 7-1 victory over rival Palo Alto American on Sunday evening.

PA National scored six times in the fifth inning to put away a pesky American squad that had kept National's hitters off balance for most of the game.

National used some small ball and dominant pitching to earn its first victory.

Relief pitcher Justin Hull drew a bases-loaded walk to put National ahead 2-1 after American had tied the game earlier in the inning behind Jason Huang's RBI single.

Hull's walk was then followed by a swinging bunt single by catcher Alec Olmstead, which plated two runs when the ball got by the catcher.

Earlier in the game, National scored its first run despite not recording a single hit during the inning. Brian Tracy scored on a fielder's-choice groundout to the third baseman after starting the inning off with a walk and advancing on a sacrifice bunt and error.

Left fielder Ben Cleasby then rounded off the scoring with a three-run homer to straight-away center field.

"Cleasby had two great at-bats," Palo Alto National manager Alex Byer said. "He blasted that three-run home run and had a nice double earlier in the game."

Byer also praised the work of the team's pitchers, Riley Schoeben and Hull.

"They're the hard throwers," Byer said. "Schoeben and Justin Hull are a pretty good combination. Riley's just developed a changeup and Justin has a really good curveball."

Schoeben and Hull overpowered Palo Alto American, combining for 12 strikeouts on the day. All of Schoeben's outs in the second and third innings were strikeouts and Hull struck out the side to end the game.

Playing against players he knew from Palo Alto Little League didn't stop Hull from coldly dispatching American's hitters to close out the game.

"It's kind of fun because you know a lot of the players, but there's a little extra motivation to beat them," Hull said.

In other weekend openers, Half Moon Bay beat Menlo-Atherton 7-3 and Alpine/West Menlo defeated San Mateo National 13-8.

Alpine will face Half Moon Bay on Friday at 5 p.m. in the winners' bracket. That winner also will advance to the quarterfinals on Tuesday, facing the San Carlos American-Belmont/Redwood Shores winner at 5 p.m.

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