At Baylands Athletic Center, the Palo Alto 15s knew it will not be easy capturing the four-team, double-elimination district all-star tournament. The host team needed to beat San Mateo on Thursday night to reach Saturday's championship game at 1 p.m.
Should that happen, Palo Alto would have to be beaten twice to lose the district title. A challenge game, if necessary, will follow the finale at 4 p.m.
A loss on Thursday night means a consolation game on Friday at 7 p.m.
Palo Alto received a scare, then came around when it had to in edging pesky Belmont in the opening round on the Fourth of July.
This season's 15-year-old group won the 14-year-old district crown a season ago and a majority of that team won district and state titles en route to an appearance at the Western Regionals in Utah as 13-year olds.
As was the case the previous two seasons, Palo Alto appears to have the necessary ingredients to hoist a district championship trophy this season with ample pitching, depth and the always valuable versatilty.
"We have good pitching depth and interchangeable players," said Palo Alto manager Rob McGregor.
Palo Alto started a bit shaky on Wednesday after Belmont tallied a pair of runs on two hits in the top of the first inning. It could have been worse for Palo Alto, but center fielder Matt Page saved the locals a run by gunning down a potential run at the plate.
Palo Alto cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the first after shortstop Jon Rea walked and eventually scored on a bloop single to right field off the bat of third baseman Wade Hauser.
Belmont upped the lead to 3-1 in the second, then Palo Alto starting pitcher Matt Jost settled down and didn't yield a hit for the next three innings. Jost had a similar situation last week in the Palo Alto City Tournament championship game — surrendering a couple of runs early, then stifling opposing hitters.
In the fifth inning, Palo Alto received timely two-out hitting by tallying a pair of runs to knot the contest at 3-3. After Eric Stanske and Rea singled with one out, both advanced following a groundout by Colin Byrne. With runners at second and third, Stanske scored on a wild pitch, then catcher Mike York blasted a key RBI-double to deep left that scored Rea.
Pat Moriarty relieved Jost in the sixth inning and sent Belmont down in order, setting up Palo Alto's game-winning run in the bottom of the frame.
With one out, first baseman Blake Johnson singled. After a pop out and a walk by Jost, Moriarty produced the go-ahead run with a single to center that scored Johnson.
"Jost kept us in the game and Moriarty finished and got the game-winning hit," said McGregor. "Belmont is a scrappy team.Ý We came out flat, kept our heads up and put the ball in play with two outs."
Moriarty, who earned the win, gave up a leadoff single in the seventh, then slammed the door to preserve the victory. In addition to his perfect assist in the first inning, Page came up with a spectacular diving catch, saving extra bases to start the fourth inning.
Palo Alto produced six hits in the contest with Rea reaching base three times and scoring a pair of runs. Jost yielded four hits in five innings worked, while Moriarty gave up one hit in two innings.
The winner of the district tournament will advance to the state tourney in Galt (between Lodi and Sacramento on Highway 99) beginning July 14.
Earlier in the day at McKevley Park in Mountain View, the Palo Alto 13s put themselves in a good position after blasting Belmont on the opening round of the three-team, double-elimination tournament. Host Mountain View failed to field a team this season.
Palo Alto played San Mateo on Thursday night, with the winner advancing to Saturday's championship game at 4 p.m. The loser on Thursday will play Friday against Belmont at 4 p.m., with that winner advancing to Saturday's finale, needing to win twice to reach the state tournament in Alameda beginning July 14.
Four players on the Palo Alto 13s — Freddy Avis, Austin Braff, Graham Marchant and Jordan Piha — are used to success. As 12-year-old Little League all-stars last season on Palo Alto National, they reached the semifinals of the Northern California Division 2 tournament before having their season end.
Palo Alto fell behind quickly when Belmont took a 2-0 lead in the first, but rallied just as quickly in the second by scoring five times. Avis had a two-run single, BJ Boyd followed with an RBI-double, Braff drove in a run with a bloop single and Travis McHugh's double made it 5-1. Palo Alto stole six bases in the inning.
Palo Alto scored five more runs in the fourth and fifth innings, highlighted by two-run singles by McHugh and Sam Falkenhagen. McHugh finished with four RBI.
Belmont loaded the bases in the fifth with one out, needing to score three runs to prevent having the game called on the 10-run rule. McHugh, Palo Alto's third pitcher, finished off the victory by getting the final two batters to pop out.
The Palo Alto 14s open District 6 all-star play Saturday against Belmont at the Belmont Sports Complex at 11 a.m. The winner will play Monday against the Mountain View-San Mateo winner at 7 p.m. The championship game is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. If a challenge game is needed, it'll be Thursday at 7 p.m.
Palo Alto Post 375 saw its perfect season end Monday in an 8-5 loss to the Mountain View Senior Babe Ruth team at Palo Alto High. The loss dropped Palo Alto to 16-1.
Post 375 made sure there would be no losing streak, taking a 4-1 victory over host San Bruno on Tuesday. Dan Stienstra had three hits while Evan Warner and Stephen Burk contributed two each. Burk tossed a complete-game three-hitter as Palo Alto improved to 17-1.
Palo Alto takes on the Redwood City Blues on Friday at Menlo School (5:30 p.m.). Post 375 will host the Redwood City Reds on Sunday at Paly in a doubleheader starting at 10 a.m.
It was a perfect day for Mikey Diekroeger and his teammates as Homefield Advantage captured the 45th annual Menlo-Atherton/Alpine Little League Championship game at Burgess Park on Wednesday with a 3-0 win over Brix.
Homefield Advantage was the regular-season champ in the Alpine/West Menlo league while Brix captured the Menlo-Atherton Little League crown this season.
Diekroeger, 11, led the way on the Fourth of July, pitching a perfect game and striking out 10. Jack Larson of Brix was nearly as good, allowing three hits over five innings.
Two of the hits, however, led to runs.
Diekroeger gave himself all the runs he would need when he scored in the first after singling and comong home on a grounder by Zach Jones. Nick Lange later belted a two-run homer in the fifth to complete Homefield's scoring.
Third baseman Dominic Andrighetto and Lange, at shortstop, each made two nice defensive plays to preserve the perfect game.
The Homefield team included Andrighetto, Lange, Diekroeger, Jones, Colin Lockeroff,
Bradley Knox, Ryan Galvin, Brennan Chess, Alex Andrighetto, Matt Henneforth, Travis Jones and Machlin Badger. Mark Lockeroff was Homefield's coach.
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