There was a feeling of excitement throughout the dugout and stands this past Sunday for the Turlock American Little League Senior All Stars when they battled Western of Stockton for the Section 6 title, winning it with a final score of 3-0 from Pedretti Park.
“There was a sense of accomplishment since these kids set a goal and they started chipping away at it and have won the district and section tournaments now,” said Turlock American head coach Ray Caldera about his team which is now advancing to the Nor Cal tournament.
In the District 73 tournament, the Americans met the Turlock National squad in the best two out of three series from June 24-26.
The opening game didn't fare well for the Americans as the National side walked out with a 2-1 win after a standout pitching performance from both sides.
“At that point, the boys knew that they had to fight because one more loss and we would be eliminated,” said Caldera.
His team responded by winning back-to-back games over the National side the next two days and proved that they were all but ready.
On June 25, the game was delayed due to the heat wave, but that didn't slow the Americans who pushed forward by scoring 11 runs in the final three innings, ending the night with a 15-4 win after stellar pitching performances from Jordan Jimenez and Liam Jones, who combined for seven.
“When we were playing against a National team that had a lot of fight in them, we never quit,” said Caldera. “Our second game the boys brought their bats and came ready to play. Then the championship game the boys came hungry wanting that trophy and title.”
Backed by starter Jones of Turlock Christian, the Americans rode the lefty who tossed four and Ethan Lamb, combined, paved the way for their team's 10-6 victory over the National side to secure the District banner.
The Americans scored nine runs in the first inning and held on till the end, earning a spot in the Section tournament.
“Expectations going into all stars were high for me because I know the talent that we have on this team,” said Caldera. “So far, I am impressed and hope they continue to play the same type of baseball going into the Nor Cal tournament. If they do we should have a good chance.”
Heading into sections, the American side knew what to expect said Caldera, after facing one another in the regular season in inner district matchups.
“They knew the competition would be strong especially coming from Western's team,” said Caldera.
The first game, they came out ready to play after starter Nick Tullio got hit-by-pitch in his first at-bat, however, he still tossed two innings.
By the conclusion of the second, the American side had gone through two more pitchers, before 14-year-old Lamb came in to pitch three innings, ending the game with a 14-5 win.
In the second game, Turlock met Tracy and Jimenez pitched a strong game, backed by the bats and solid defense which led to the 5-1 win.
This win launched the Turlock Americans into the championship game on Sunday against Western, with the possibility of a second game because of the double elimination rule.
The highlight of Sunday's finale was starter Tullio, who pitched a complete game seven-inning shutout for the win.
“He went into the game knowing what he had to do,” said Caldera. “At the beginning of the seventh inning he was at 88 pitches (95 is the max). He was able to get one strikeout and a ground ball FC for the first two outs. At that point, he was at 94 pitches which meant he could start and finish the next batter. He was able to get the strikeout and complete the game.”
With the win, the Americans have won five straight games, amassing a current tournament record of 5-1.
“This run has been special because since the beginning these boys have been aware of their abilities and talents and where it can take them,” said Caldera. “We remind them every game that they will be the ones out on the field, so they need to go out there and play with everything they got.”
The first game of the Nor Cal Division tournament is slated to take place from Pedretti Park against the Section 7 winner at 1 p.m. Saturday.