Last year Sundance needed only one win to capture the Palo Alto Babe Ruth playoff championship, but lost twice to Goetz Brothers.
This time, Sundance flipped the script, winning two games Tuesday, 7-3 and 4-3, at Baylands over a Dutch Goose team that needed only one win to capture the title. It was the first championship for manager Ron Fried in his 20 years as a Palo Alto Babe Ruth coach.
“This is the third year in a row we’ve been in the finals and the fourth time in five years,’’ Fried said. “It’s taken us a while to get over the hump. And the Goose did not make it easy for us.’’
Sundance was the regular-season champion. Dutch Goose caught fire late in the season and entered play Tuesday on a seven-game winning streak that included a 4-1 win over Sundance that put Sundance behind the eight-ball.
But Sundance beat Alhouse 12-2 in an elimination game Monday and took that momentum into Tuesday’s matchup, building a 7-0 lead after two innings of the first game.
Dutch Goose relief pitchers Andre Hyrkin and Nathan Yu held Sundance scoreless over the final four innings, but Sundance starting pitcher Nolan Doyle went the distance and was only touched for a three-run fifth in a 7-3 victory.
Zander Darby led a 12-hit attack with three hits and two RBIs. Ben Gladstone hit a three-run double in the first inning and Jake Foster had a two-run single in the second. Doyle, Foster and Dean Casey had two hits apiece. Sam Mutz hit a two-run double for Dutch Goose.
The second game was a tense battle from the beginning. Dutch Goose broke the ice with a two-run fourth on Ben Gordon’s two-run double to take a 2-0 lead.
Gladstone hit a two-run single in the bottom of the fourth to give him five RBIs on the day and bring Sundance even at 2-2.
Dutch Goose went ahead in the top of the sixth when pinch hitter Josh Donaker laid down a squeeze bunt to score Mutz from third. But once again Sundance came right back.
The first two batters in the inning reached and Goose manager Vaskan Guiragossian made a move, bringing in Diego Clarke to relieve Zach Donaker. Foster’s single tied the score and Casey’s single through a drawn-in infield gave Sundance the lead.
Matteo Romeo pitched well for Sundance, going six innings. Darby came on in the seventh and closed it out.
“I’m very proud of this team,’’ Fried said. “It’s not an easy thing to do when everyone expects you to win. We were the team to beat. Last year we were the hunter. It’s hard being the hunted.’’