The Palo Alto Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-stars came up just short of a NorCal State championship when they were downed, 3-2, on a walk-off base hit by Tri-Valley at Baylands Athletic Center on Thursday night.
Palo Alto was victorious in the first game on Thursday night, 10-4, then lost in the challenge game that could've taken the all-stars to a regional tournament next week in Surprise, Ariz.
"I just told them, flat out, all the years I've coached, in 25 years, this is my favorite group of guys I've ever coached," said Palo Alto manager Rick Farr. "You want to win, but I just want to coach more."
In the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 2 and with a runner on second base and two outs, Tri-Valley's Sean Maloon lined a base hit up the middle and Jake Simons came around to score the winning run as Tri-Valley beat Palo Alto in dramatic fashion for the second straight year.
Palo Alto committed two of its five errors in the fateful seventh inning.
"We kind of piled on with their last pitcher," said Farr. "I felt good going into the game. I loved the way our guys stayed in it with the two runs. Going into the sixth inning with a tie game, I really thought we were going to get them, I did."
In the fifth inning in Game 1, Palo Alto pinch-hitter Chris Cook delivered in the clutch with a double to right-center field, bringing home Tim Goode and tying the game at 4.
"If I had to pick one at bat it would be Chris Cook coming off the bench and banging a double, that was huge," said Farr.
In the sixth inning the offense went on a tear, scoring four runs on five hits. Ole Erickson delivered the go-ahead run on a bloop base hit to right field. Palo Alto led 8-4 after the sixth inning.
In the seventh inning, Shane Wallace ripped a triple to right field and would eventually come around to score on a passed ball. Palo Alto knocked three hits in the inning and totaled 17 for the game. The hits in the seventh inning propelled them to the 10-4 victory. Aron Ecoff tossed a complete game.
Game 2 began with a lead-off walk to Tri-Valley's Tanner Gomes. With two men on base, Maloon smashed a two-run double to left-center field and Tri-Valley took the quick 2-0 lead.
Maloon had a solid game and went 2-for-4, knocking home all three runs.
Palo Alto starting pitcher David Clarke started to settle down after the first inning, giving up no runs in his next four innings.
Palo Alto's bats were quiet through the first five innings with just three hits. With Ole Erickson on second base in the sixth inning and with two out, Kyle Pruhsmeier came up and smacked an inside-the-park home run, getting the crowd into it and tying the game at 2.
In the seventh inning, the Palo Alto defense collapsed. Shortstop Tony Masetti fielded a ground ball, stepped on second base while trying to convert a double play, and threw the ball wide of the first basemen -- with Tri-Valley's Simons advancing to second base. Palo Alto also let an infield pop-up drop for another error.
Maloon was the next batter. With a full count and two outs, the third basemen got a fastball and he squared up on it and hit it to center field to score Simons with the winning run.
"We never gave up one time in this tournament," said Pruhsmeier. "This is the best group of guys I've ever played with."
"We got closer and closer every year so I'm proud of that," said Clarke. "I definitely wish we could've gone farther but that's how it went."
In Woodland, the Palo Alto 14s also saw their season end in a loss to Tri-Valley, 11-5, in the consolation finals of their NorCal State Tournament. Palo Alto grabbed a 4-1 lead after one inning, but Tri-Valley exploded for seven runs in the fourth.
Robert Lopez and Reece Lindquist had two hits each for Palo Alto, with Lindquist adding two RBI. Palo Alto needed to win three straight games to advance out of the consolation bracket and to next week's regional tournament.