When the season first started and the Tigers Majors squad from Turlock American Little League were shutout in their very first game, not many expected them to win league or the city title, but head coach Todd Feldman and his group never lost hope.
Overcoming many obstacles throughout the season, including losing a top player, and battling with three other teams for the top spot, the Tigers won their league and capped it off with a City Championship after Monday’s 8-3 victory over the Giants from Turlock National at Soderquist field.
“These kids like to score runs and hit, and they like to play defense,” said Feldman. “I am so proud of these boys. We had eight kids who had never seen Majors pitching until this year. Coach Paul Cooper is a legend and gets to go out on top, which is what I am happy about.”
“Still proud how we battled down 4-0, then they buried us in the top of the sixth,” said Giants head coach Jeramie Helwick. “But we battled back, but it was a two-run game I would have liked our chances, but that is alright, they got us. If they win Saturday, we will play them Sunday, I am anticipating that.”
The Giants had a memorable start prior to spring break said head coach Jeramie Helwick.
They were 11-0 at one point, then following their break, they went 17-3 to finish the year in first place and earn the top seed in the postseason.
From there they won all three games, capping it off with a victory over the Rockies in the league finale.
“Our final was the big one and a tough one, but we had their number, the Rockies,” said Helwick. “We played them four times and won every time, but sometimes you have their number and other times you don’t, but I am proud of the way they played.
Feldman and his squad had just four returners on the roster,
but they kept battling after being shutout in the first game of the year and
witnessing some challenges firsthand.
They weren’t shutout again as they finished the regular season from Julien Field with a record of 11-4-1.
“We finished regular season a half game away from first, and first place were 12-4, Yankees and White Sox, anyone could have won this season,” said Feldman. “Along with the Blue Jays as well, they all had the chance to do it, and just in the playoffs we hit our stride hard.”
Hit their stride they did, first beating the White Sox 12-3, followed by an 11-1 win over the Blue Jays to set up a title game against the Yankees.
Followed by a 10-0 loss to the Yankees, the Tigers came back and beat them 12-5 to win it all and earn a berth in the City title game.
The Tigers also have six All-Stars moving after the Tournament of Champions. Three will compete at the 12s, one with the 11s and two with the 10-year-old All-Stars.
“It was a team effort with all these guys, the coaches and parents, and everyone plays three innings on my team, nobody does the minimum,” said Feldman. “If we win or lose it will be as a team. We have done it all as a team so far, that is how it works. Paul Cooper as my right-hand man who I couldn't of had the success without. And Mike Patterson, the same. It started with the draft and we all three came up with a game plan to build the team for the future and to give us a chance this year.”
The Giants have 10 kids advancing to play in the All-Stars.
During Monday’s game, the Tigers struck first when Ben Vilhauer hit an RBI single to make it 1-0 in the top of the second.
Garrett Shamgochian followed up with an RBI bunt to extend the lead to 2-0 in the third, then two at-bats later, Vilhauer once again came up bit with another RBI to make it 3-0.
Jadon Boyer of the Tigers added an RBI on a walk to make it 4-0 going into the bottom of the fourth.
Mason Helwick of the Giants put his team back into the mix after hitting a two-run double to right center that cut the lead to 4-2.
Xavier Cisneros added an RBI when he hit a double in the top of the fifth to make it 5-2.
Tigers starting pitcher Vincent Gonzales finished the game with 4 and ⅔ innings pitched and 85 pitches. He also struck out 11 in the final 3 and ⅔ innings.
Carlos Beltran of the Giants scored the third run in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 5-3.
By the top of the sixth, the Tigers added three more runs.
First it was Boyer who drilled a two-run triple to right center and then Vilhauer came through again with another RBI to make it 8-3.
“I honestly am bummed we lost this one, but that is okay, I want to win [Tournament of Champions] more,” Helwick added. “That is the way I look at it, I want to be the champion of them all, not just one, that is the way I look at it and I will tell the kids after tonight.”
The Tournament of Champions is slated to run from June 8-14 from Soderquist, starting for the Tigers at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Giants will face the winner of that game on Sunday.