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Ace throws shutout in district title game
The Turlock American East 12-year-olds celebrate after beating River Park of Fresno in the Little League California District 10 Championship on Wednesday night in Madera. - photo by Photo Contributed
Phil Salazar likes to go to one player whenever his Turlock American East All-Stars in the 12-year-old Little League division are in a tough spot. It’s because he’s a proven talent who doesn’t get rattled very easily.
That’s pitcher Marcus Lopez.
“When the game is on the line,” Salazar said, “I can go to Marcus.”
Lopez can also completely knock out a team. And that was what he did in a 7-0 win over River Park of Fresno on Wednesday night in Madera to lead his team to the District 10 championship — which is deja vu for Turlock American East, as it beat the same team last year in the same title situation.
On Tuesday, Turlock American East defeated River Park 2-1 behind solid pitching from Anthony Moreno and Cristian Ceja to force the elimination game.
Now, American East is playing for back-to-back Section 6 titles, starting at 10 a.m. today in Linden. This tournament of All-Stars is double-elmination with the local team also playing Sunday.
On Tuesday, Lopez was almost unhittable. He earned 14 strikeouts in his complete shutout, allowing one hit and no walks. It was, Salazar said of his ace, “by far, one of his best performances.” It also helped that American East produced hits.
David Lazar and Lopez both went 2-for-3 and Cody Cornell went 2-for-4 at the plate, while Josh Cardenas added a hit. But the key moment happened in the bottom of the third inning, when Dominic Jack came off the bench to smash out a three-run shot on his first pitch — giving the All-Stars a 6-0 cushion.
It was more than enough.
Another advantage for American East was that Lopez pitched against River Park last season as an 11-year-old and he finished with a shutout. Sure, that memory provided some assurance, but Salazar said his ace is usually very effective.
“Marcus has all the confidence in the world,” Salazar said. “He’s a dominant pitcher. Once he’s in a groove, it’s hard to get him out of the groove.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-941 ext. 2041.