@credit:Joe Melena

Alpine lets one slip away

Publication Date: Friday Jul 29, 1994

LITTLE LEAGUE: Alpine lets one slip away

A 7-4 lead turns into a crushing 9-8 loss in Section 3 tourney

by Geoff Lepper

WARNING: This story will contain references to the ghosts of Bill Buckner, Calvin Schiraldi, and all the rest of those infamous 1986 Boston Red Sox. If you're a fan of the Alpine Little League all-star team, avert your eyes. Alpine had the look, the feel--heck, almost the champagne taste--of a Little League Sectional champion Wednesday night. The all-stars held two shots at the Section 3 championship in their hand, and were well on their way to cashing in the first.

Going into the sixth inning at the Belmont Sports Complex, Alpine held a 7-4 lead over Union City, thanks in large part to Rex Finato (homer, four RBI), Ariel Jakobovits (two-run double, two runs scored) and Chris Juelsgaard (2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief).

Suddenly, Alpine had a collective out-of-body experience. Unfortunately for them, their bodies were occupied by the Red Sox team that blew a three-run ninth-inning lead to lose Game 6 and the first of two chances at the 1986 World Series. Alpine gave up three runs in the top of the sixth, then another pair in the seventh and ended up losing, 9-8.

Juelsgaard turned into Schiraldi, unable to find the plate and hit when he did. After a walk and a force out, Juelsgaard gave up a pair of singles, followed by a trio of walks. Runs scored on each of the first two walks, and a wild pitch--Rich Gedman, where are you now?--brought in the tying score.

"Three outs away," Alpine manager Tom Yob said. "That was our chance. Three outs away."

Union City scored two unearned runs with two down in the top of the seventh. Steve Wyreman, usually the most sure-handed infielder in the whole of Alpine, couldn't handle a grounder to second (Bill Buckner revisited). That allowed one run to score; the second came in when Jack Zider's throw from right field sailed over everything.

Alison Dohrmann, Alpine's hottest power hitter, added insult to injury when she blasted a home run to left-center to lead off the bottom of the seventh. It was especially painful in light of Jakobovits' at-bat in the previous inning; Union City right fielder Jamal Colbert, a la Lou Pinella (a 1978 Red Sox reference, while we're on the subject), speared Jakobovits' wicked line drive without really having the faintest clue where it was going. A hit, obviously, would have given Dohrmann a chance to win the game in regulation.

"It takes a lot of luck to get to Williamsport," Alpine coach Joe Mitchner said. "Look at Ariel's shot. One foot either way, and he's on second. Instead . . ."

"We wanted to get Alison up in the sixth, because we knew that she could produce in that situation," Yob said. "We just left too many people on base."

Since it was Alpine's first loss in the Section 3 tourney, the two teams met again Thursday night for the championship. The winner moves on to Division 1 play in Stockton, starting on Sunday. The Division 1 winner advances to the Western Regional tourney at the Little League complex in San Bernardino.

Thursday's matchup was Alpine's third straight game against Union City--Alpine posted a 3-2 win Monday night--but its first time facing Union City ace pitcher Jesse Ronquillo.

Alpine came from behind impressively Monday, as Jakobovits threw a complete-game victory on sheer force of will. Union City scored twice in the second inning, but Alpine answered with a daring double steal in the third: Chris Hume, the leadoff hitter par excellence, came home from third when Jakobovits broke from first and Union City's catcher threw through to second.

Hume tied it up the next inning when he stroked a bases-loaded single to score James Koblick, and Jakobovits drew a walk to force in what became the winning run.

Jakobovits didn't have his best stuff, but he still managed to stomp out Union City's sixth-inning rally, striking out cleanup hitter Jamal Colbert with the bases loaded.

But Yob was not terribly excited Wednesday night about his team's prospects of getting a lead to risk blowing against Ronquillo.

"I saw him pitch Tuesday night (a win over Mission-San Jose), and he's incredible," Yob said. "We (Alpine's coaches) said that we had to win today. This was a brutal loss, just brutal.

"Somebody was telling me that the last time a Menlo Park team went to Sectionals, it was 1963, and the same thing happened to them. They lost by blowing a three-run lead in the final inning."

Though Jakobovits was eligible to pitch, it was uncertain if he'd be able to go Thursday night. Monday's win took 132 pitches, and Jakobovits said at the end that he "had never been more tired, ever."

Even more important than Jakobovits' status was Alpine's mental health. This has been a redoubtably resilient team throughout the postseason, but even Yob wasn't sure about his team's ability to come back from this one.

"I don't know," Yob said when asked about how to put his team back in shape for Thursday's game. "I just don't know." 

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