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American 12s capture District 73 title
American 12s 1
The Turlock American 12-year-old All Stars won the District 73 tournament after topping Atwater 5-2 on Wednesday night. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Kenny Leonesio said his Turlock American 12-year-old All-Stars expected to win the District 73 tournament.

The expectation became a reality on Wednesday night from Julien field when the Turlock Americans battled a taller Atwater squad and managed to take them down behind a strong pitching performance from starter Matthew Leonesio.

Leonesio, along with Cole Hendrix's two home-run game and a stout defensive performance, helped secure the banner after the final score read 5-2.

“It's always special when you actually go out and do it,” said Leonesio about the team's win. “I think they are really excited. There is a lot of tradition here where the 12s have done well, but to get through this is great and we want to continue to move forward. It definitely helps to not travel, they know the field and it is the same routine.”

The win secures a spot in the Section tournament, which is slated to take place on July 15 from Sunrise in Stockton.

But before that, they had to take on a red-hot Atwater team that was coming off a semifinal game where they eliminated the Turlock National team just a day prior.

“I think you come into every game expecting a tough game, so we knew it was going to be a close game, and they played extremely well,” said Leonesio of Atwater. “Their pitcher did well and they had to earn what they got.”

Hendrix broke the game wide open with a two-run bomb in the first inning with one out to take the 2-0 lead.

Atwater responded by scoring one run in the top of the third and followed with another in the fourth to tie it at 2-2.

The Americans answered back by adding two more runs in the bottom of the fourth and went up 4-2.

Leonesio started the fifth but was pulled after allowing the lead off runner to get on, finishing the game with two innings pitched and 58 pitches tossed.

Gavin Farinha came in to relieve and closed the door in the fifth and sixth, ending the game with three straight outs in the sixth.

Next, the Americans will compete in the Section tournament with an opponent and time yet to be determined on July 15.