It was an offensive showdown at Soderquist Field on Thursday afternoon as both Turlock 11-year-old All-Star Little League teams met for their usual crosstown battle.
The American and National 11s put on a show for the spectators as they combined to score 19 runs total but the Americans were able to edge out the Nationals, 12-7, and head into the District 73 championship game on Sunday.
“I am excited for the kids, they have worked so hard and went two a day practices and got them out there to play, these youngsters have worked hard and earned to be here,” Turlock American head coach Grady Welch said. “They are a great group of kids, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids.”
Things ended up going the Americans' way despite an early 1-1 tie heading into the third, but things quickly shifted when Anthony Tulio hit a three-run homer over the center field wall to put his team up 4-1 with a no-out rally in the bottom of the third.
“Our offense… well Tulio’s home-run really set the deal for us and all I can say is I have a great group of kids and great families, which I love being out here with,” said Welch.
The Nationals had a tough time finding much offense, especially with the American starting pitcher James Ericksen dominating on the mound for all four innings of work as he allowed two runs to score.
“We had great pitching from James Ericksen, who threw quite possibly the best game I've seen him throw,” said Welch.
The Americans were up 8-2 by the end of the fourth and by the start of the bottom half of the fifth, the National added two more runs to cut the deficit and make it 8-4.
“The game got away from us in the bottom of the fifth but the boys came back and really gave themselves a chance, really proud of them,” said Nationals head coach Brian Weatherbee.
A four-run rally in the fifth by the Americans made the score 12-4 and by then the game appeared cut and dry, but the Nationals didn't give up.
With Tulio on the mound for the American side in the sixth inning, the Nationals tacked on three runs and found themselves with bases loaded and two outs but the defense was on point and forced the final out on a groundout to first base to end the game with the American side winning by five runs.
“It was a team battle. I was really proud of them all. The goal going into the final inning was to give us a chance and we did that,” said Weatherbee. “The boys battled till the last out and a couple of breaks here and there, who knows what could’ve been.”
The Turlock National 11s will face off against Los Banos today for an opportunity to play the American side in the championship game with a time and place yet to be determined.
“I know Los Banos gave Turlock American a good game, so it should be a good game because I have no quitters on the team so we will keep on battling till the end and hopefully we come out on top and get another chance to see American League,” Weatherbee added.