The Turlock American Little League 12-year-old All-Stars are the District 73 champions.
A five homerun outburst from the American 12s in the championship game against the National All Stars was the deciding factor in the fourth inning mercy rule, 16-4, win at Osborne Field in Atwater on Saturday.
“I think just about everybody in the lineup got a hit just right off the bat,” said American head coach Phil Govea. “We wanted first ups and we wanted to get some runs on the board and put pressure on them, so we changed up our tactic and I gave our guys the green light. They were just banging the ball out of the park.”
“We continued to swing the bats and sooner or later sometimes baseball just happens. The kids are a great group of kids and great group of parents,” said Nationals head coach Craig Redman. “I think that showed here at the end of this tournament.”
Despite a great effort and run into the final by the National team, the offense and pitching of the American prevailed in Saturday's contest.
American starting pitcher Matthew Livingston proved to be a heavy hand for the National side to handle and the offense was just the icing on the cake for the Americans.
“All the hard work that the kids put in really has paid off with all the practice and doing all the little things,” said Govea. “All is truly paying off and we do a lot of live pitching, hitting stations off the tee and hitting weighted balls and it has paid off.”
The entire team for the American side contributed largely, but the four individuals that smacked the ball out of the park and provided a spark for their team were Ryan Leonesio, Andy Owen, Jake Abrams and Silas Fredeen, who took two deep.
“They [American] are a buzzsaw and we ran into it—twice—they have a very solid pitching staff that can hit their spots and can dominate their game,” said Redman. “As far as swinging the sticks, they are solid one through nine. They make big plays when needed and every year they get better — but so do we, just got a little gap that we got to close.”
With the score 10-0 heading into bottom of the second, the National team scored their first run of the game after a Ryan Tury RBI double.
Ryan Leonesio of the American side hit a solo homerun in the top of the third to go up 11-1.
Luke Redman then added on the second run for the National side after striking an inside the park homer in the bottom of the third to make the score 11-2.
The Americans then jumped out to a 16-2 lead after a five-run fourth but the Nationals had something left in the tank.
“Defensively, we were not on our best, we booted the ball around and couldn’t throw or catch here and there,” Govea said. “We will need to tighten that up, but we rely on being able to hit the ball and force moves that are uncomfortable and hopefully we can keep that going into sectionals.”
The American team added on two more runs in the bottom of the fourth just before ending the game by a 12-run lead.
“We had to pull through close games, our kids are grinders and this season we talked about playing every inning hard and playing ever game pitch by pitch and we continued to swing the sticks even when things don’t go our way,” said Redman.
The next game for the Turlock American side is a matchup in the double elimination sectional tournament where they will face off against one of the other five section champions beginning on Saturday with a time and opponent yet to be announced.
“So now is the playoffs, basically, where the talent only gets better and better,” Govea added.