By Colin Becht
Palo Alto Online Sports
Menlo Chevron lost just twice during the entire Palo Alto Babe Ruth League regular season. By the end of Wednesday night, B&B Builders had doubled that figure en route to its second-straight city tournament championship.
B&B avenged its loss to Menlo Chevron earlier in the league tournament -- as well as two regular-season losses -- beating Menlo Chevron twice at Baylands Athletic Center to win the postseason tourney coming out of the consolation bracket.
B&B forced a winner-take-all challenge game by coming from behind to win, 8-7, and rode the momentum from that victory to a 9-6 triumph in a game that didn't conclude until after 10 p.m.
"I didn't have high expectations," B&B manager Rick Farr said of what he thought of his team's prospects before the season. "I thought we might end up fourth or fifth and might be able to win a couple of games in the tournament."
In the challenge game, B&B got a standout outing from starting pitcher Rohit Ramkumar, who allowed just four hits in six-plus inning of work after pitching a three-hitter in his previous outing. He retired the first eight batters he faced as B&B jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
"I was able to throw strikes and make them put it in play," Ramkumar said. "My defense was really key."
Farr said Tuesday's storm, which forced the championship to be pushed back a day, played to B&B's advantage as it gave Ramkumar an extra day of rest from his complete-game outing on Friday.
"If we had played last (Tuesday) night, like we were scheduled to, I would have gone to him, but I wouldn't have extended him too much," Farr said. "But today, at four days rest, it probably helped to have that extra day."
With Ramkumar keeping the Menlo Chevron bats at bay, B&B took advantage of its opportunities to build a lead as large as seven. B&B scored three runs in the fourth, two of them on a base hit to center field by Nicholas Beeson, as Menlo Chevron's defense crumbled. Three Menlo Chevron errors prolonged and spurred B&B's rally, making the outing much more difficult on starting pitcher Alex Aguiar.
B&B then added four more in the fifth, again with some help from an error by Menlo Chevron. Still, B&B made sure to punish Menlo Chevron for its mistakes as Roy Shadmon drove in three runs with a triple, all but locking up the championship.
"They didn't pitch me very well," Shadmon said. "Then, finally, I got a good pitch to hit, and I just drove it."
Though Menlo Chevron attempted a rally in the seventh inning, scoring three times, the deficit was simply too vast as Rylan Pade closed out the seventh inning with solid relief.
It took quite a comeback for B&B to even play for the title as it had to overcome a four-run first inning by Menlo Chevron in the initial game on Wednesday.
"It wasn't looking too good," Farr said. "We made a couple of bad plays. It turned around pretty good."
Even after a five-run fifth inning gave B&B its first lead of the game, Menlo Chevron came within 90 feet of forcing extra innings.
After Brian Kannappan led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and Robert Larson followed with walk, the two advanced to third and second, respectively, with just one out. Kannappan scored on a groundout by Lawrence Han but Larson was left stranded as Aguiar was unable to come up with the clutch hit.
Stranding runners in scoring position proved to be Menlo Chevron's fatal flaw on Wednesday. Menlo Chevron left a runner in scoring position in every inning but the fourth, when Jacob Hoffman was doubled up at second on a line drive by Leo McCabe. Over the two games, Menlo Chevron stranded 11 runners in scoring position.
Ramkumar delivered what proved to be the winning run in the 8-7 decision, doubling in Jack Cleasby in the top of the sixth.
Until the fifth inning, B&B had been stymied by Kannappan, Menlo Chevron's starter, who managed to scatter eight hits in the first four innings so that B&B only plated two runs.
Finally in the fifth, B&B managed to cash in on its opportunities when James Foug hit a double to left-center that brought in two runs, followed by an RBI single by Pade. Relief pitcher Jackson Salabert then perfectly executed a suicide squeeze bunt to score Foug and Pade came around to score on a double to right-center by Beeson.
"We had a lot of clutch hitting," Farr said.
After scoring four runs in the first inning, Menlo Chevron was held to just three for the rest of the game thanks to fantastic work out of the bullpen from Salabert. Salabert allowed just one run in three innings of work before turning the ball over to Pade for the save.
"He has kind of worked into (the role of a closer)," Farr said of Pade.
Shadmon finished the two game 5-for-8 with five RBI. Beeson nearly matched him, driving in four runs on 2-of-5 hitting.
"Our bats really came alive," Ramkumar said. "We were really going after the pitchers."