By Rick Chandler
Palo Alto Online Sports
For Alpine-West Menlo's Little League All-Star team, continued life. For Daniel Koller-Gasiewski, sweet redemption.
Really, could anyone have written a crazier script for Alpine than the one that played out on Friday? Two days after watching his game-winning home run bid fail when a Menlo-Atherton opponent caught his drive right at the outfield fence in the sixth inning, Koller-Gasiewski faced the same situation once again.
With two out in the bottom of the sixth and the score tied 2-2 on Friday, he hit a ball that looked like it might get caught right at the fence. But this time, deja vu turned to jubilation for Alpine, as the Foster City outfielder appeared to catch it, only to have the ball pop out of his mitt and over the fence for a home run. It gave Alpine a 4-2, walk-off victory in the losers bracket of the District 52 11-12 year-old tournament.
Alpine began its winning rally when Mitch Martella singled with one out, and Rylan Pade forced him at second for the second out. Then on the second pitch, Koller-Gasiewski (known as Daniel KG to his friends) hit a drive to deep center. The Foster City outfielder backed up to the fence and got a glove on it, but the ball popped out and over as the outfielder tumbled through the plastic fence. Game over.
On Wednesday, Alpine had been denied a go-ahead run in the top of the sixth with the score tied, when a Menlo-Atherton outfielder reached over the left-field fence and robbed Koller-Gasiewski of a homer. M-A then scored a run in the bottom of the inning to win the game.
"Don't think that there wasn't a person on our team that wasn't thinking about that," said Alpine's Kodiak Conrad, who went the distance, striking out 11, to earn the victory. "I was thinking, no, they can't rob him twice."
Alpine can still be victorious in the double-elimination tournament; it just needs to win five straight games to do it. The next will be on Tuesday when it takes on San Carlos at 5:30 p.m. at Ortega School in Pacifica. In a winners-bracket semifinal on Monday, Menlo-Atherton meets defending champion Hillsborough, also at 5:30.
Alpine took a 1-0 lead in the first on back-to-back doubles by Pade and Koller-Gasiewski, and tied it at 2-all in the third when Pade walked and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Travis Jones. Jason Harmon also had a pair of doubles for the winners.
Conrad threw exactly 86 pitches -- the limit in Little League -- over six innings, so would not have been eligible to pitch the seventh if Koller-Gasiewski's drive had been caught.
"Daniel's a nice kid; he always has a good attitude, so we're all happy for him," Conrad said. "But then, we would be happy with anyone who hit a homer then."