Things were going quite well for the 10-year-old Turlock National Little League All-Stars during the first few innings at Soderquist Park on Thursday night. They were ahead by three runs and collecting hits like it was a hobby, not to mention having pitcher Anthony Encalade humble the Atwater All-Stars one by one.
Then disaster struck, as a line-drive nailed Encalade in the left kneecap, swelling it. He fell down and screamed in pain. He was then carried off the field and taken to the hospital. Turlock National had to adjust quickly, and they struggled for a few innings. But they surged back to force a do-or-die situation in the sixth inning before losing 13-10 in the double-elimination tournament game.
“We almost got them,” Coach James Green said.
After Encalade went down with his injury in the fourth, Atwater rallied from a two-run deficit with six runs in the same frame to go up 8-4. But in the bottom of the fourth, Turlock National came roaring back, thanks in part to a two-RBI double from Garrett Lema to cut the Atwater edge down to 10-9.
Turlock National then tied the game at 10-10 after Lema's sacrifice fly to leftfield in the fifth.
But Atwater managed to finish the game with three runs in the top of the sixth before shutting out the Turlock National players in their final plate appearance.
Noah Benson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, three runs scored and a double, while his Turlock National teammates also contributed after AJ De La Riva scored two late runs to ignite a nearly successful comeback.
Also, Encalade scored twice and landed a double before going down, on top of striking out four Atwater batters. Bobby Martinez came in to relieve for Encalade and finished with three solid innings of pitching.
Did Encalade's injury motivate the team?
“They're 10 year olds, who knows,” said Green, the coach. “Once we got things rolling, we battled all the way back … It was positive thinking. Everybody stuck together, and started cheering and put the ball in play.”
Turlock National won its first two games by defeating Los Banos American and Madera National but will once again face the latter team in Madera at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The teams are playing in the 9-10 Area 2 of the California District 10.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.