The Turlock American Little League minor champions—the Bulls—are only one game away from playing in the Tournament of Champions finale on Saturday.
After playing in three consecutive games on Monday through Wednesday, the Bulls were able to come away with two critical wins at first, but then fell to Atwater 7-2 at home in Julien Field on Wednesday afternoon.
“Luckily were not out yet, but we have had to play three games in a row and really if we played a fourth straight it depletes our pitching so we were worried about that,” said Bulls head coach Scott Erickson. “They took advantage of a couple walks is all and a key hit at the right time. Give them credit, they pitched well and played well.”
After the loss, the Bulls find themselves in a must-win situation on Friday when they will play an opponent, which is yet to be announced in a place yet to be determined.
If they win, they will get the opportunity to play in the TOC final on Saturday, but a loss would end their impressive season.
The Bulls began their hot start on Monday at Empire as they were able to notch a 9-4 win, playing aggressive at the plate for the Turlock American Minor champions.
Deep counts led to critical at-bats for the Bulls, who were able to capitalize.
“The Empire game was closer than it appeared but we played aggressive, we took advantage of walks and smart at-bats, we had some clutch hits,” Erickson said.
On Tuesday, the game against Mariposa came down to the wire in the final inning as the Bulls were able to come away with the walk-off single from Lukas Hallak to end it at 13-12.
“It’s been tremendous. We have kids getting hits that haven’t hit before so it’s been a wind,” Erickson said.
With the Bulls down 12-13, Kyle Erickson hit a double followed by a Cole Hendrix RBI triple to tie it at 13 apiece, then finally Hallak was able to slam the single to win it for his team and send his team back home to host a TOC contest.
On Wednesday, The Bulls were down 5-0 after the first inning against the Atwater Dodgers and found themselves in too deep of a hole to overcome.
Aside from a struggle on offense, Atwater’s starting pitcher Jesse Garcia was the man of the match after picking up the win with 5 and 1/3 innings of work and holding the Bulls offense to only two earned runs allowed.
The game would end at 7-2, after the Bulls notched two runs late in the game, but Garcia was able to work out of uncomfortable situations on the mound.
“To be honest I think we outhit them all through our lineup, we made contact, but we hit the ball right at guys and that’s just baseball. Just stinks to lose at home like we did, but really coming from where we were is great,” Erickson added.