The Palo Alto Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-stars are one victory away from reaching the finals of the Northern California State Tournament, and two wins from winning the championship.
Palo Alto put itself in that position by beating Alameda, 5-2, on Saturday and holding off Washington Manor, 6-5, on Sunday in San Leandro.
Palo Alto, the District 6 champion, next will face Tri-Valley in the semifinals on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tri-Valley, which won this tournament last season as 14-year-olds, advanced with a victory over Alameda and then a 3-2 win over Sonoma Valley in extra innings to set up Wednesday's showdown.
The championship game will be Friday at 5 p.m. Should the unbeaten team lose that game, a challenge contest will follow at 8 p.m. The NorCal champ will advance to the Western Regional in El Segundo.
Palo Alto opened NorCal play with its win over Alameda. Kyle Barnes went the distance for Palo Alto, improving his record to 6-0 over the past two years in postseason all-star play. Barnes and Alameda left hander Spencer Linney pitched shutout ball through the first three innings of the game.
Palo Alto broke through in the top of the fourth with two runs. TJ Braff and Ryan Lockareff both walked with one out to start the rally. Jack Hannan's hit-and-run single to center scored Braff. Travis Bowers singled to left to score Lockareff and make it 2-0.
Palo Alto tallied two more runs in the fifth. Austin Hume started the rally with a double to center. Barnes' sacrifice bunt was misplayed, putting runners at the corners. Gabe Kaplan pinch ran for Barnes and forced a rundown between first and second on an attempted pickoff. Alameda tried to run down Kaplan, but when Hume broke for home, a throwing error allowed Hume to score. After a sacrifice bunt by Cory Tenanes, Matt Crowder put down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Kaplan.
Alameda scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 4-2 game, but Palo Alto responded with an insurance run in the top of the sixth. Hannan lead off the inning with a double to left. An error on Joe Xavier's ground ball put runners on the corners. Xavier's early steal attempt of second base forced Alameda into another rundown and Palo Alto took advantage of a late throw to the plate to score Hannan.
Alameda's seventh-inning rally fell short as Tenanes caught a line drive in center field with two runners on base to end the game.
The second game of the tournament pitted Palo Alto against the host team, Washington Manor. Palo Alto managed to keep its head in the hostile environment and came away with the important victory.
Palo Alto grabbed a 6-3 lead in the top of the seventh when Conner Mather walked and stole second base. He moved to third on a wild pitch. Mather broke to the plate on the next pitch for an attempted squeeze. Manor pitcher Kenny Chavez tried to get Mather at third, but the relay throw from third base to the plate hit Mather in the helmet -- allowing him to score.
Andrew Klingelhofer, who had pitched well in his second all-star start, allowed a run in the seventh and was replaced by Lockareff. An error allowed Washington Manor to score another run, but Lockareff retired the next two batters -- including a strikeout to end the game with runners on second and third.
Earlier, Palo Alto had to rally three after being down 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. Palo Alto took the lead for good with three runs in the top of the fifth. Crowder had a two-run single and Braff blasted a run-scoring double.
Babe Ruth 13s
Palo Alto advanced to the third round of the NorCal State Tournament in Eureka with a 15-7 thumping of Eel River on Sunday. A day earlier, Palo Alto fell into the consolation bracket following a 10-6 loss to Novota to open the tournament.
Palo Alto needed to beat Hayward on Monday to earn a Tuesday berth against the Alameda-Eureka winner.
Against Eel River, Palo Alto scored early and often to overcome Eel River's six-run third inning. Palo Alto also gave up eight runs to Novato in the third inning on Saturday.
This time the opposition's outburst didn't hurt. Palo Alto grabbed a 2-0 lead after the first inning on singles by Nick Wells and Clay Carey, and a double by Curly Kadash. It was 4-0 after two innings as Jack Witte and Nick Sinchek singled and Jack Larson bunted safely with Witte scoring on an error. Justing Grey followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring Sinchek. Palo Alto made it an 8-0 game in the third as Kadash, Peter Verheecke, Sinchek and Larson all had base hits.
Eel River closed to within 8-6 in the bottom of the third, but Palo Alto continued to pile up the runs in each inning <0x2014> including three in the sixth.
There were a lot of offensive standouts for Palo Alto as Sinchek had four hits (including two triples), Larson had three hits and four RBI, while Clay Carey and Andrew Lim each had two hits. Lim also scored three times.
Against Novato, Palo Alto stranded 11 baserunners to hurt its chances of pulling an upset.