The Turlock American 10-year-old All-Stars completed an American trifecta of District 73 titles on Sunday as they overcame their woes in the losers' bracket to beat out Los Banos in back-to-back games that ended in a lopsided score in both Championship finals.
“It was a tight game on Sunday,” said American head coach Kirk Johnson. “We also had the luxury of home field advantage since we had so many people there supporting us and our side was going crazy. We were fully aware, and some pressure...but we needed to get through and we did.”
Just a day prior, the American 12s had clinched their District 73 title —with the American 11s earning their title last week — but this time the 12s were at the field at Soderquist as spectators and rooting on their younger peers.
The home field encouragement and presence along with the momentum swung things in favor for the Americans in their second game after they found themselves down at one point; the first game on Saturday was a different tale.
It took three innings for the Americans to tack on 10 runs in Saturday's elimination game as the bats continued to be red hot for coach Johnson and another mercy-rule decision was ruled in their favor after ending it in four innings.
Carson Gonzales and Andrew Johnson each had multiple hits behind an offense that only struck out once over 19 at-bats.
“We knew we needed guys for Sunday so we had to be careful with pitching,” said Johnson about Saturday's game. “Our big four guys were ready but Andrew really came through for us on the pitching side as well after not pitching much during the year, he came through big time.”
Johnson came in the third inning with one out and managed to toss 1 2/3 shutout innings and allowed just one walk and struck out three.
Gonzales started the first game and tossed 1 2/3 innings, striking out four and not allowing any hits or walks.
“The highlight was we had our guys step up in this game during critical situations,” said Johnson. “It's a collective team thing with guys getting multiple hits.”
Sunday's finale ended in a mercy-rule decision but it was more dramatic than the first meeting a day before.
Both sides scored two runs in the opening inning to make it 2-2, then things went downward for the second inning after the Los Banos All-Stars added three runs to go up 5-2 going into the third.
“If you follow the box score, it was a game where they were clearly in it,” said Johnson. “They got two then we did and when they tied it, it was back and forth and I think our crowd... that is what carried the night.”
The Americans went on to outscore Los Banos 20-1 in the next three innings, starting with a four-run inning in the third, followed by nine and seven-run innings.
By the top of the fifth inning, the Americans had built a steady 22-6 lead and Bubba Lujan came in to pitch 2 1/3 innings, allowing just a hit and a walk, while striking out four.
Daniel Mazon started the title game and went 1 2/3, allowing four runs on two hits and Gonzales pitched one inning, allowing just two runs on two hits and struck out a pair.
“We had a great crowd, all the 11s and 12s were there, an unbelievable loud and energetic crowd and that helped us,” said Johnson of Sunday's final. “We took out their starter and then went off. I mean we hit like crazy.”
Coupled with great pitching were the bats, after the team went a combined 17 for 37, scoring 22 runs and walking nine times.
Mazon had four hits and Lujan was 3 for 4 with an RBI. Gonzalez was 1 for 4 with three RBI on a home-run Robert York had a pair of RBI and Harry Clark was 2 for 2 with an RBI.
“We had seven homers in six games and for 10 year olds when they hit a homer you can feel it happening,” said Johnson. “Clark was huge for us too with his two-out hit to tie it and everyone followed by doing their job and the kids came through.”
The Sections tournament will take place at Julien Field in Turlock against an opponent yet to be named at a time yet to be determined on Saturday.