Heading towards the end of the Turlock National Little League 2015 season, each team without a postseason spot is battling it out for an opportunity to play an extra game or perhaps finish atop the standings when the year ends.
At the majors division, the quest for first is between the Dodgers and Giants as of Friday, with the Dodgers in first place at 14-2 and the Giants at 13-3. The Pirates are third with a 9-7 posting and the Mets are 7-8.
“We have hung our hat on pitching and defense. We have had timely hitting, but pitching and defense is how we have been in games and usually been in it towards the end,” said Dodgers head coach Brian Weatherbee.
Although the Dodgers offense is second to the Giants with runs scored at 139, they still average 8.6 runs per game in 16 games played.
Aside from the strong pitching, the hitting and defense has been nearly as great and flawless as any other team in the National League, especially after returning six players from last season.
“We were second last year and actually we have been second for a couple of years now, but the kids that barely came in have really helped out,” Weatherbee said. “So they have gelled together as a team and played consistently, which is one of the hardest parts. The boys are a tight knit group.”
Heading into Thursday's game, the Dodgers had won seven consecutive contests after starting 6-0 at the beginning of the year.
“With the returners, they had a lot of experience last year and they worked hard in the offseason and they stayed focused which has helped,” said Weatherbee. “If you can pitch, play defense and be consistent then you can be in any game.”
The Dodgers are ranked as the top defense out of the seven teams in the standings, allowing an average of 2.5 runs per game with consistent pitching from nearly everyone on the team.
“Even our losses they were very close games and came down to the wire. This team has been very consistent all year,” Weatherbee said about the close games.
With the help of the seven 12-year-olds, Julien Valdes, Tyson Weatherbee, Sam Swanson, Jon Edwards, Jon Erb, Jayson Martin and Zack Barker, the Dodgers look to be destined for a deep playoff push if everything continues to go their way.
Blake Teeples, Luke Fountain, Josh Weatherbee, Joey Crivelli and Chase Gilbreth are the young guns under 12 and have been vital assets to the success of the team so far.
Next for the Dodgers will be the postseason, however the bracket has yet to be finalized and will not be determined until May 18.
In the AAA division, a battle between six teams for first place is underway after 12 games with the Sandgnats sitting atop the standings at 8-2-2 with the Hot Rods in second at 8-3-1. The Volcanoes are third at 7-2-1 and the Bees are fourth (7-4).
As the top offense, the Hot Rods have scored 104 runs after 12 games and the Sandgnats trail them at 101 but also have allowed the least amount of runs scored per game at 5.