The Turlock National Little League Majors have their champion and it's a name baseball fans expect to see in the winners column —the Giants.
After going 15-3 during the regular season, the Giants rallied into the playoffs and swept through the competition, ultimately defeating the Dodgers last Wednesday and Monday to gain the title.
With a tight score of 2-1 in last week's matchup, it seemed like Monday's holiday championship game would be a tough battle. Instead, the Giants took an early four-run first inning lead and never let up, ending with an 11-0 shutout victory over the Dodgers.
“The kids came out to play tonight. The big thing was that it was not a do- or-die situation for us since we had won Wednesday, so they had to win, no pressure on us,” said Giants head coach Lyle Zimmer. “Our boys played relaxed. We waited till we got our chance and got it on, the ball found the holes.”
“It was not common for our kids to play the way they did,” said Dodgers head coach Brian Weatherbee. “The Giants played like champions. They took the fight out of us early and we just couldn't recover.”
The ball just didn't fall in play on offense for the Giants, but defensively the team was almost picture perfect as starting pitcher Justin Hill was lights out.
After striking out 11 Dodger batters in last Wednesday's 2-1 victory, Hill returned on Memorial Day and went 5 and 1/3 innings, struck out 13, allowed no runs on only two hits with 85 pitches thrown.
“I never shut them out, but I only allowed a couple runs in the first few games we played them,” Hill said. “I was just working on getting my fastball down and off speed out of the strike zone and that helped a lot.”
Heading into the postseason, the Dodgers had the league best record of 16-2 and allowed the lowest runs per game at 2.4. They were also held a 2-1 record over the Giants during the regular season.
The Dodgers toppled the Diamondbacks, 3-1, in the first round of playoffs which was followed by the one-run loss to the Giants and eventually the Dodgers topped the D-Backs again in the losers' bracket, 13-2, to notch a seat in the title game.
“Our previous games with the Giants have all been well played and close nail biters, but today they just played too well,” Weatherbee said.
The Giants were the top offense all year long, averaging 9.2 runs per game and they showed a bit of that on Monday.
The game's top four hitters in the lineup, Blake Zimmer, Matthew Morris, Nathan Bittner and Hill, started off the first inning rally by scoring the team's first runs of the ball game which began with a Hill two-run double with no outs followed by a Bittner RBI single.
“It wasn't easy, but we just needed to get base hits and they kind of fell apart early after we went up with some runs,” said catcher and 12-year-old Zimmer.
With a 5-0 lead heading into the third inning, the Dodgers found it very difficult to find an answer for Hill who struck out seven in the final 2 and 1/3 innings pitched.
Morris came in and relieved Hill as he struck out the final batter and the Giants cruised into the city title game against the American champion set for Monday.
“We started off well because we helped each other out and practiced hard and we tried to get it all down and I expected some early runs to be scored,” said Bittner. “Coach always says to hustle and help each other out. If we keep our strategy, I think we should be able to win the city title.”
The Giants are set to play the winner of the Turlock American League side — either the Yankees or the Red Sox, which will square off at 7:30 p.m. today at Julien Field.