It took five games in five days, but the Turlock American 12-year-olds are the 2016 Section 6 Champions after the Little League All-Star team battled its way out of the loser's bracket and went on to top the Delta All-Stars in back-to-back games, ending on Wednesday, 9-6.
“They have been in it mentally from the start for five straight days and we had all 13 kids here every day,” said American head coach Kurtis Carr. “All the kids showed up ready to go with smiles on their faces and just played their hearts out.”
The team also traveled well over 700 miles in less than a five-day span from Turlock to San Andreas, beginning on Saturday.
From a loss on Saturday to four straight victories, the American 12s managed to overcome their early woes with a multitude of help, including a couple of home-runs and solid pitching.
“I never saw the kids look or act tired once. The coaches and parents might be a little sluggish and tired but the kids were never tired,” said Carr. “They were in it all the way and the team we played, Delta, they are a tough team and we have a lot of respect for them.”
It started on Sunday and two wins later the team was in the Championship game facing the Delta All-Stars from Stockton, the same team which beat them in the opener.
This time it was under difficult and different circumstances. The Americans needed two wins and the Delta's just one for the Section banner.
Determined to win, the American side went strong behind the arm of Dylan Fuller, who pitched three innings and allowed just one run on five hits while striking out six on Tuesday.
Aidan Askil pitched the final two innings, allowing just three runs on two hits and struck out two behind an offense that was on fire and toppled Delta, 16-5, in a mercy-rule win.
“We had our backs against the wall because we were in the loser's bracket but we actually felt like we were in good shape because our pitching matchups were set,” said Carr. “We liked the pitchers we had all three days so we felt we had a deeper pitching staff than anybody we saw.”
Auki Flores was 1 for 2 with a grand slam and Boston Souza was 1 for 1 with a homer and two RBI. Fuller was 1 for 3 with a home run. Griffin Sotomayor was 2 for 3 with two doubles and three RBI. Kaden Petersen was 1 for 2 with an RBI and a walk. Zach Mayol was 2 for 2 with two RBI and a pair of walks.
The win set a winner take all game on Wednesday from the Calaveras Little League field in San Andreas between the Americans and Delta.
The game didn't disappoint and for the first time in five games, the Americans went up first with a 1-0 score after the first.
Five runs later and in the bottom of the third, Fuller was able to find the crease with an RBI single to drive in Askil to tie the game at 3-3 after the Deltas snuck up.
The Delta squad followed with three runs in the top of the fourth and went up 6-3 on the Americans, but that would be it for them.
Mayol led off in the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot up the middle and one out later, Flores came up and followed with a solo homer of his own to end the fourth with a 6-5 score.
Four runs in the fifth inning solidified the Americans a Section banner and a spot in the state title after Kaden Petersen started the rally with an RBI triple to drive in Fuller.
Clutch once again, the lefty Mayol stepped up and drilled a hard line drive RBI single for the go-ahead to make it 7-6.
With one out and an 0-2 count, Sotomayor fouled off the next two pitches before squaring up on the fifth pitch as he leveled it well over the center field wall to make it 9-6 and give his team a couple of insurance runs.
“Griffen has been a warrior all tournament long, what a stud,” said Carr of Sotomayor. “That at-bat, their ace was out of pitches and Griff kept scraping away and staying alive and then when he hit the homer, their ace was finished and we started feeling really good at that point.”
Mayol started on Wednesday and he pitched four innings, allowed six runs on nine hits, and struck out seven.
Julian Espinoza came in and pitched the final inning and finished with a strikeout.
“No quit in us, we never panicked, we trusted our talent, we knew we could put runs up in bunches and we just kept doing it, we were ready to go,” said Carr.
Cooper Carr was 1 for 2 with a home run. Fuller was 2 for 2 with two RBI. Mayol was 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBI. Sotomayor was 1 for 3 with a two-run homer, Flores was 1 for 2 with a homer.
“We are up to 10 of our 13 kids have hit postseason home runs and trust me the other three are not far off. We put up big numbers with homers,” said Carr. “We knew we would have to slug it out with these guys to compete and it’s not just the fact that our kids can hit homers, it’s that they kept doing it in clutch situations — just an awesome thing to watch.”
Next for the American side will be the state tournament at River Park in Fresno at 6 p.m. Saturday.