Host Palo Alto earns respect in tourney

Publication Date: Friday Jul 18, 1997

BABE RUTH 15s: Host Palo Alto earns respect in tourney

Loss to Hayward forces Babe Ruth 15s to win five in a row in loser's bracket

The top 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Star teams in Northern California converged at Baylands Athletic Center last weekend to begin the eight-team NorCal State tournament. And though Palo Alto automatically qualified by virtue of hosting the tournament, it gained a lot of respect over the weekend.

The locals split their first two games of the double-elimination tournament by defeating Elk Grove in the opener last Saturday, 7-6, before losing to Hayward on Sunday, 4-2.

Palo Alto now has to win five games in a row in the loser's bracket in order to capture Friday's championship.

Though most "host" teams are usually eliminated in two games, Palo Alto hung tough with its stellar competition last weekend and was a couple of plays from reaching the winner's bracket championship. But Palo Alto's lack of timely hitting and defensive miscues landed them in the dreaded loser's bracket instead.

Palo Alto couldn't produce the key hit in the clutch and committed four errors in a heartbreaking 4-2 setback to Hayward in a contest the locals could have won. Palo Alto stranded nine baserunners and had two runners thrown out at the plate in the loss and committed an error while turning a double play in the fifth that produced the game-winner for Hayward.

"The loser's bracket isn't all that bad, because we can play every day," said Palo Alto manager Rick Beckwith. "Our pitching won't be a problem, but our timely hitting isn't happening, and we'll make some changes."

Palo Alto didn't have to win a district championship like the other seven teams in the tournament because it's hosting the tournament. But after last weekend's action, Palo Alto showed it can play with any team in the field.

On Saturday, the locals jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead on Elk Grove (Sacramento) after two innings before winning a 3-hour contest, 7-6, on Trevor Rafferty's bases loaded RBI-single in the bottom of the seventh that brought home Ralph Martinez.

Patrick Frost pitched superbly for 6 2/3 innings before Elk Grove tied the game with four runs with two outs in the top of the seventh to tie the game at 6-6. Palo Alto tallied five runs in the second on three Elk Grove errors to take the 6-1 lead.

Rob McGregor and Doug Govan had two hits for Palo Alto, while second baseman Tak Abe sparkled defensively, turning in six assists and two putouts.

The Palo Alto 13-year-old All-Stars split their first two games of the NorCal State tournament in Eel River (Eureka) last weekend, losing to Vallejo National, 12-11 on Saturday, then beating Eureka, 13-6 on Sunday.

The locals produced 26 hits in their first two games as the tournament turned into an offensive showcase.

Palo Alto's Colby Henard had six hits in the first two games, while Barrett Lonnquist (two doubles) and Greg Matson produced five hits apiece. Jon Dishotsky picked up the win Sunday as Palo Alto leaped out to an 8-2 lead after five innings.

"The kids are having a great time up here," said Palo Alto manager Neil McGregor. "It's like a vacation for us, and the host families have been awfully nice."

Palo Alto has to win seven in a row to capture the championship.

--Craig Wentz 

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