By James Huber
Palo Alto Online Sports
Palo Alto National served notice Sunday that taking away its hard-earned District 52 tournament championship from last year (as 10-11 year olds) won't be so easy.
That's what Palo Alto American found out at Middlefield Park. PA National needed a late-inning rally to pull away in a 7-1 victory over PA American.
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 a combination of small ball and dominant pitching to earn their first victory.
Relief pitcher Justin Hull drew a bases loaded walk to put National ahead 2-1 after American had tied up the game in the top of the inning. Catcher Alec Olmstead delivered a swinging bunt single, which plated an extra run when the ball got by the American catcher.
Jason Huang, American's starting pitcher, had a RBI single that tied the contest ahead of the National's big rally.
National scored its first run on no hits. Brian Tracy scored on a fielders 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 completed the scoring with a three-run home run 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 pitchers Riley Schoeben and Hull.
"They're the hard throwers," Byer said. "They 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. Schoeben struck out the side in each the second and third innings and Hull struck out the side to end the game.
Playing against people 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.
Palo Alto next plays Friday at Middlefield Ballpark at 5 p.m. against San Carlos National, who beat Redwood City American, 15-2, in its first game.
Palo Alto American, which beat Ravenswood, 14-1, in its first game, plays in an elimination game Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Middlefield against Redwood City American.
In other games, Half Moon Bay beat Menlo-Atherton, 7-3; Alpine-West Menlo defeated San Mateo National, 13-8; and San Carlos American recorded a 7-2 win over San Mateo American.
Belmont Redwood Shores dominated Highlanders, 11-0; Hillsborough slid by Foster City, 3-1; and Redwood City National earned a tough, 6-5, win over Pacifica American.