The Alpine/West Menlo Little League 10-11 all-stars made a little history when they handed San Mateo National its first loss in two years. That, however, only got Alpine into the challenge game of the District 52 Tournament.
Needing to repeat its performance in order to advance to the Section 3 Tournament, Alpine fell just short of a title with a 6-5 loss on Tuesday at the Belmont Sports Complex.
The setback came on the heels of Alpine's 13-3 victory over San Mateo National on Monday, during which the winners scored all 13 runs in the first inning.
"It's been a decade since any team in Alpine went this far in the tournament," said Alpine head coach Bryan Wargo. "We were the underdogs, no one expected anything from us and we came out and played our hearts out. I'll take that any day of the week."
With runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth inning, San Mateo's Cody Rafael grounded a ball to second base. The throw to get Rafael was wide at first, allowing the winning run to score.
"We really rely on our defense and that's what won (previous) ball games for us," said Wargo. "I think it was maybe the pressure of the championship game a little bit in those last innings."
San Mateo's Jake Willerup hit a three-run homer in the third for a 3-0 lead before the defending champs added two more in the frame for a seemingly insurmountable 5-0 advantage.
Alpine came storming back in the bottom half of the third inning when a fielder's choice brought in one run and Tripp McKinlay slammed a three-run homer to bring Alpine to within 5-4. Alpine catcher Teddy Purcell then tied the game at 5 with a two-out double.
"We made some mistakes in the third inning but we picked ourselves up," said Wargo. "We preach to these kids, 'You can make mistakes in life and the baseball field but its about what you do next'. So what did we do? We put up a five spot of our own."
Alpine had a chance to force the game into extra innings in the sixth with a runner in scoring position, but two strikeouts and a groundout ended that hope.
"They have quality pitching," Wargo said of the two-time champs. "We were the first team to beat them in two years and it's because they're so deep with their quality pitching. We had our chances and we just kind of missed them."
Alpine's loss marked the end of the season for all local Little League teams in District 52 play.
"Talk about a great finale," said Wargo. "A 6-5 game and down to the last out -- it was fantastic."