Turlock American majors A's were one win away from capturing the Tournament of Champions title, but ultimately the squad fell to Atwater in a 10-4 final on Friday after pulling out a tight win the night before that ended 4-2.
“It was so fun playing to the end,” said A's head coach Kirk Johnson. “They are such a great group of kids, none of us wanted it to end.
“I think a few of the 12s realized this was it for their Little League days and kept talking about it and I think the others picked up on that. Let's do all we can to keep going was the general feeling,” he added.
Having already lost to Atwater in a 7-3 decision prior to their win, the American side knew what they were dealing with and sent out Griffen Sotomayor on the mound to toss 4 1/3 innings after allowing just two runs on five hits and striking out nine.
“Griffen got into a little bit of trouble, but pitched so well,” said Johnson.
Then Anthony Manzo managed to get out all five batters he faced for the save.
Matt Leonesio had a critical two-run double in the second that put the A's up by three and then 10-year-old Andrew Johnson hit an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth to get the insurance run before the final inning.
Manzo finished the win with a 3 for 3 performance while Johnson was 2 for 2 and Leonesio was 1 for 3 with a pair of RBI. Shane Reid was 2 for 3.
In the finale on Friday, the A's never led against Atwater.
The Atwater squad jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the first and scored two in the third along with a six-run inning in the fifth that gave the A's a 9-0 deficit heading into the bottom half of the fifth.
“Their pitcher was pretty tough on Friday,” said Johnson.
Atwater held the A's bats to just five hits and struck out 11.
The A's also committed four errors to Atwater's lone error.
Leonesio started the game for the A's and went four innings and allowed five runs.
“It was probably the best he's pitched all year. He gave up three runs, but all were unearned,” said Johnson. “Six games in seven days was both mentally and physically exhausting. We made mistakes to give up those three runs that we normally don't make. And then I think I got greedy and left Matt in a little longer than I should have.”
The silver lining was that Sotomayor and Manzo each homered in their final at-bats for the game when the score read 10-0 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
“So the game was for all intents, over, but they just kept battling. Both these guys, along with Drake Browning and Shane Reid, have been with us for three years and are such great kids and leaders,” said Johnson. “They are all the cornerstone of this great season.”
Next is All-Stars and Sotomayor and Browning made the 12-year-old squad. Leonesio and Sean Clark made the 11s team and Hunter Arellano, Harry Clark, Carson Gonzales and Andrew Johnson made the 10-year-old team for the Americans.