The sun was setting and time started to become a factor in Wednesday's 10-year-old Section 6 Championship game from Christa Mcauliffe Middle School in Stockton where the Turlock American and Linden teams went into extra innings to decide who would hoist the banner and trophy.
It took nearly 200 minutes to conclude (3 hours and 15 minutes to be exact). But after a tumultuous contest, Turlock came out on top over Linden in a 14-13 final after the walk off victory in the seventh that paved the way for Vincent Gonzales to cross home plate, waving his hands in the air with excitement as his teammates met him and the parents and fans gave a loud cheer.
“I am so proud of the kids, they played great,” said Turlock American assistant coach Erik Hart. “We did not expect this, but the kids were ready, they had a positive attitude and they forgot about the last game and had a great warmup and were prepared. We battled back and told the kids to continue battling and they picked each other up.”
Turlock overcame a six-run deficit and rallied to score five runs with two outs to go in the sixth, but the lead up was just as dramatic.
Six runs total were scored to kick off the first inning with Turlock going up 4-2.
Linden rallied to go up 6-4 after the top of the second followed by Turlock tying it at 6-6 with a Jaron Rocha RBI and Noah Garcia crossed home plate for the sixth run.
Linden added six more runs and led 12-6 by the start of the bottom of the fourth, but then Gonzales smashed a two-run dinger over the fence to make it 12-8.
“We saw Vincent Gonzales step up with his first career home-run, but they just kept battling and I told them we could win,” said Hart. “Once we got some hits, the confidence came up and the light turned on, and when we tied it. They knew we would win the next inning, it was that mentality.”
Linden added another run in the top of the fifth to go up 13-8.
Mankins tossed the final 2 and 2/3 innings of the game and earned the victory, shutting out Linden completely, while finishing the game with three strikeouts for the final three outs.
“Max came in and was great,” said Hart. “He hadn't really pitched, but we called upon him and I told him yesterday he might pitch, and he stepped up. He was blowing it past them and we only had one other pitcher available at that point.”
Down five runs heading into their final three outs in the sixth, the Turlock squad never gave up hope.
They continued to fight after getting their first two batters to get on base via walk in Seth Salabor and Gonzales.
Two strikeouts followed, then with two outs Mankins came through with a clutch single to load the bases to set up Garret Shamgochian for a big opportunity.
Shamgochian delivered, smacking a two-run double to the right field to cut the deficit to 13-10.
Once again in a clutch situation, Turlock delivered when Noah Garcia drilled a two-run single on a 1-2 pitch past second base to cut the lead to 13-12.
A pitching changed followed for Linden, but Turlock continued with their results, only this time it was a sneaky play by Garcia who stole his way to home plate, beating the throw and tying the game at 13-13.
“Keep fighting, it was that mentality,” said Hart. “And we kept battling back. Their adrenaline was pumping and it was great to see the 10 kids who played, they all did great. These guys are fun to coach, that is for sure.”
Mankins struck out three to get all the outs in the seventh heading into the bottom half.
Gonzales singled to lead off the inning and stole second, followed by reaching third base after Dutch Lawrence moved him over.
Lincoln Hart was up and with one out and Gonzales at third, he hit a shot to the third baseman, who then had an error throw at first with one out and Gonzales walked to home plate with excitement.
“These kids are really close knit. They get along and when they see one kid get a hit, they want to see the next kid to get a hit and they saw it and got excited for everyone,” Hart added. “Just great to see the kids come through, they earned it.”
The 10s advance to the Nor Cal State Tournament from Sutter Little League, beginning with their first game against the Section 4 winner at 6 p.m. Sunday.