Winner to move on to sectional tournament in Fremont tomorrow
by Craig Wentz
The purpose of the double-elimination tournament format in baseball is to separate the two best teams from the rest of the field. And in the District 52 Little League All-Star tournament in Redwood City, Alpine and San Carlos have stretched it to the limit. Last Wednesday, San Carlos thumped previously unbeaten Alpine, 7-3, in the championship game at Red Morton Park to set up last night's challenge game for the title. The winner will begin play in the sectional tournament tomorrow in Fremont.
Alpine handed San Carlos its only loss of the tournament last Saturday, 5-1 with effective pitching, solid defense and timely hitting. But that wasn't the case last Wednesday.
Alpine starting pitcher Alex Hogue, who dazzled San Carlos a week ago by keeping the ball low and mixing speeds, ran into trouble early against the most potent offensive lineup in the tournament and its slugger Brett Nicol.
Nicol drilled a three-run homer for San Carlos in the first inning, then added a grand slam off of reliever Thomas Ostrander in the fifth, to give San Carlos a commanding 7-0 advantage. Alpine also didn't take advantage of scoring opportunities, stranding four runners in the early innings.
"The kids were in good spirits before the game, but the guy that we thought would give us trouble did," said Alpine manager Bob Budelli, in his last season coaching after two decades. "We couldn't get runners home from scoring position, but we'll battle back."
And for a pitching staff that surrendered only four runs and 17 hits in its first four games, Alpine was roughed up for eight hits. Last week, San Carlos could only manage a single run against Hogue and Ostrander, swinging at low breaking pitches and hitting into eight ground outs.
Eddie Browne laced a two-run homer for Alpine in the fifth and Hogue scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to make the final, 7-3. But, no matter who wins the 17-team, double elimination tournament, the format played out with the two best teams going the distance for the championship.
"We would just as soon play the best," said Budelli after Wednesday's loss. "And the two best are still playing."
Browne had two of Alpine's seven hits and knocked in two runs as the locals had problems with the breaking ball, striking out four times and rolling into eight ground outs.
Alpine reached the title game by edging Pacifica National in the winner's bracket final last Monday, 2-1 behind another stellar pitching performance from Ryan Seawell. Seawell picked up his third win of the tournament by yielding only one hit and fanning eight in five flawless innings.
In a scoreless contest, Alpine tallied the game-winning runs in the top of the fifth behind the heroics of Chris Budelli. Budelli notched a two-out, RBI-single up the middle to score Kyle Spraker from third for a 1-0 advantage. Budelli then scored after a Pacifica error by the leftfielder after Eddie Brown's base hit off of the second baseman's glove.
Pitching on sheer guts in the fifth, Seawell tired and was relieved by Budelli in the sixth. After giving up a leadoff homer to narrow the Alpine lead to 2-1, Budelli fanned the side and sent Alpine into the championship game.
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