Seven. That is the number of consecutive District 73 Championships earned by the Turlock American Little League 11-year-old All Stars after the 2018 team clinched yet another title on Monday afternoon from Colorado Park in Los Banos.
Despite dominating the tournament in convincing fashion, the American squad had their closest and toughest matchup yet when they took on Atwater in Monday’s Championship game.
After a close battle from the first pitch, the American side relied on their pitching once again as they managed to fend off the opposition in a tightly contested 2-1 ball game.
“The kids should be proud. I told them after that Turlock American 11-year-olds have won the District 73 title the past seven years,” said American head coach Eric Hart. “I think the kids seemed nervous at the beginning, they put a lot of pressure on themselves because they want to go further than last year.”
Last year the team finished fourth in California as 10-year-olds.
Tournament play for District 73 kicked off on Friday from Los Banos with Turlock American and Turlock National squaring off in the first round.
The Americans won 10-0, then the Nationals were eliminated after falling to Atwater the next day in a 9-7 contest.
The American side kept their momentum alive after they toppled Los Banos in the second-round game on Saturday that ended 6-1.
Their win set them up for a chance at clinching the District title on Monday against Atwater and it was close yet ended well.
“Won three games, got there through pitching, Josh Ramirez, Joe Farinha and Dutch Lawrence, just gave up two runs all tournament,” said Hart.
They allowed just 10 hits in a total of 16 innings played for the tournament.
“Our pitchers dominated, pitched well and defense was key as well, played solid defense behind the pitching,” said Hart. “Our pitching carried us and kept us in the game.”
Farinha pitched the first and final games while Lawrence tossed the second.
Ramirez pitched in all three games.
To make things even more interesting, the 11s were the only squad of the three All Star teams, (10-12s) to compete on the road in the District Tournament.
“I think our kids are used to traveling at another ballpark,” said Hart. “I think it has helped us by not playing home.”
It was close, as Atwater was able to keep Turlock batters at bey for a majority of the game.
“It was a good game, they got to give credit to Atwater, threw a kid who had off-speed, curveballs, changeup and fastball, kept us off balance all game,” said Hart.
Max Mankins was the offensive hero in a game where the runs scored were limited.
Mankins had an RBI sac fly in the bottom of the first that drove in Ramirez.
Farinha started for Turlock and tossed 85 pitches while he went 3 and 2 /3 innings, allowing just a single run and struck out five.
The only run scored by Atwater came in the top of the third inning after stealing home.
Ramirez struck out the final batter with two runners in scoring position.
Ramirez finished the game with four strikeouts after going 2 and 1 /3.
“It was fun and amazing, like I said playing at different ball parks the kids are used to it,” said Hart. “Now I try telling them one game at a time, and I think they are glad to be out of District and now moving on to Sections, you could see the sigh of relief after they won. I kept telling them to relax and we would come through and it was a good challenge since next games will be closer.”
The American 11s will kick off Section 6 Tournament play from District 67 against District 8 beginning on Saturday at a time yet to be announced.