A fifth inning rally stranded the possible game-winning run on third for the Turlock American 12-year-old All-Stars as they fell just short to the Sunrise All-Stars, 4-3, in Wednesday’s Section 6 championship game at the Western Little League in Stockton.
“Three of our losses have been close. It shows our team fought 'til the end since both losses to Sunrise were one-run games,” Turlock American head coach Leon Curtis said. “I tip the hat to Sunrise, though, because they took advantage of their opportunities. They deserve it and if they keep hitting and playing the way they did they can go far.”
The game was scoreless until the third inning when Turlock’s Justin Hines laid down a RBI sacrifice bunt to drive in Mike Mirza from third and take the early 1-0 lead. Sunrise retaliated in the bottom of the fourth after Hunter Jones smacked a two-run homer off Joe Romeo to put them up 2-1.
In the top of the fifth—with two outs—Turlock responded by taking the lead after blasting back-to-back homers from Tyler Gil and Romeo to put them up by one. Unfortunately, this would be the final runs produced by the American side.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Romeo threw a good changeup, but Sunrise just got a piece of it and managed to get an RBI blooper over the first baseman to score the tying run from second and make it three apiece.
“It was a tough game. We were leading majority of the game but afterwards it was back and forth,” Curtis said. “[It was] an incredible well fought game.”
Despite an outstanding outing from starting pitcher Romeo — who went 5 1/3 innings, struck out nine, and allowed only two runs on four hits—he was unable to finish the game as he reached the pitch limit for the game (85). Clayton Souza, came in to relieve Romeo, tossing 1 1/3 innings before allowing the game winner after an error at first.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, a ball was hit directly to the pitcher Souza and he threw it to first, however, the first basemen was unable to control the ball and dropped it—which led to Sunrise scoring the walk-off.
“The error at first got away from us, but [Souza] did a wonderful job keeping us in the game. Baseball is a game about pitching and close games and it came down to inches. Sometimes the ball rolls your way, but sometimes it doesn’t and I think the score reflected that,” Curtis said.
Turlock was inches from getting a run in the top of the sixth, but a tremendous backhand play from the shortstop with two outs ended the possibility as Kaleb Welch was left in scoring position at third.
“I told the kids after the game it’s an honor to coach them and be in their life. I thank the kids for their hard play. I told them they have the rest of their lives ahead and seeing these kids grow up, it was just a huge honor to be a part of it,” Curtis said. “I want to thank the families of our kids for all the traveling and support.”