By Jen Cosgriff
Palo Alto Online Sports
Palo Alto must have still been celebrating the Fourth of July. After all, it opened the District 6 Babe Ruth 14-year-old all-star tournament with an offensive show worthy of any fireworks display.
Palo Alto lit up the scoreboard in beating Mountain View, 16-1, in the opening round of the tournament at the Belmont Sports Complex on Monday night.
Michael Strong and Alex Aquiar helped turn the game into a spectacular display, each driving in a pair of runs during a six-run rally in the third inning that all but snuffed out Mountain View's fuse.
Starting pitcher Jack Cleasby, who did not allow an earned run in his five innings of mound work, got things rolling in the offensive burst of a rally, breaking a 1-1 tie with an RBI single.
Cleasby's single sparked a rapid fire blaze of runs that included Strong's two-run single and Aquiar's two-run triple. Aquiar eventually scored on an error.
It wasn't just the starters having all the fun either. Players coming off the bench also played a major role in the victory. Kyle Stewart and Rohit Romkumar each drove in a pair of runs to highlight the evening.
Palo Alto combined for 12 hits and seven walks in the win, also taking advantage of every opportunity to record 10 stolen bases.
"In terms of steals, we do work on that," Palo Alto manager Ron Fried said. "We want to be really aggressive offensively. We have really good team speed, and we want to use that to our advantage. Early in the game, we weren't hitting the ball as well . . .and once you get guys on base, you can run and make things happen. That really kind of helped get things going for us."
Cleasby allowed seven hits, striking out four, to get credit for the win. Perhaps most impressively, however, was the fact that he didn't walk a batter.
"He did a really nice job on the mound," Fried said. "He's one of two or three guys we know are quality starting pitchers. We have a lot of depth, in terms of our guys on the mound. He actually was the opening day pitcher in last year's all-star game, as a 13-year old, so he has experience playing and pitching in all-star games, which is another benefit of us having him out there."
Mountain Views run was unearned, as Niko Cepeda singled home Dwight Washington after Washington reached on an error.
Despite the big win, Fried wants to keep his team focused on the rest of the tournament.
"It was great for them to come out and relax and have a whole bunch of guys hitting and getting a chance to play," he said. "But eventually they just have to put it out of their minds and figure that we've really got to start focusing again."
Palo Alto takes on host Bel-Mateo Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Belmont. The championship game is Thursday, also at 7, with a challenge game (if necessary) set for Friday at 7 p.m.
Babe Ruth 13s
Palo Alto's all-stars got off to a good start in the District 6 Tournament at McKelvey Park in Mountain View, but things didn't end quite as well.
Palo Alto opened with an 11-10 victory over Bel-Mateo in eight innings, but dropped a 13-2 decision to Mountain View on Saturday. That dropped Palo Alto into a consolation Sunday against Bel-Mateo.
According to Palo Alto coach David Jefferson, his team held a 7-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh before the all-stars were slapped with a forfeit, due to a pitching violation.
"We made a mistake and with two extra pitches thrown the day before," Jefferson said. "Mountain View coach Kris Mims saw that and ran over to tell the Bel-Mateo coach. I guess Mims really didn't want to play us in the finals."
The forfeit knocked Palo Alto out of the tourney and elevated Bel-Mateo into Monday's championship game against Mountain View, which posted an 8-4 victory to qualify for the regional tourney in Antioch.