The 12 year olds of the Turlock American Little League All-Stars weren't getting it done in the first two innings of Wednesday night's game. Their at-bats didn't produce anything exciting; just a bunch of scoop-able grounders.
How did Coach Dave Moore describe his team's early innings? “Flat.”
Then it got better, quickly.
“We came back from the dead,” he offered.
There wasn't one particular play that defined Turlock American's 10-2 win over Madera National at Julien Field in the championship game of the California's District 10 Area 2 bracket, one watched by dozens of fans from both sides. The Turlock players managed to collect five runs on four hits at the bottom of the third inning before pushing further ahead with a four-run, two-out rally during the fourth, while witnessing two players knot their first home runs of the All-Stars season.
Turlock American — which hasn't lost in the double-elimination district tournament yet — hopes to keep up the enthusiasm going into today at 10 a.m., as the local team will play for the District 10 title in Madera against Riverpark, the Area 1 winner. Riverpark, which will be playing its fifth game in six days, needs to beat Turlock American twice in order to claim the championship, with the if-necessary game scheduled for Sunday.
“In the first and second innings, we were sloppy,” said Austin Taylor, who went 2-for-2 with a homer to centerfield and relieved Ty Finegan in the final inning. “Then we picked things up. In the third, that's when we started to get hits and runs.”
But first, they got a wake-up call.
Fresh off a 20-7 demolishing of Turlock National the previous night, Madera National busted open for three hits and two runs at the top of the third. Madera National also had a wildly powerful batter in Austin Ford, who slammed out two dingers the previous night. However, he was not much of a threat on this night, striking out twice and going 1-for-3.
But Turlock American had something else going for them: The players had beaten the same Madera National team a week earlier, supplying the opponent with the 10-run mercy rule win.
They also knew that they had a mental advantage.
“We had to be beaten twice,” said Finegan, who stood tall on the mound and pitched 5 1/3 innings with five strikeouts.
Some of the highlights in the crucial third inning for Turlock American included Blaine Weber's triple to right field that sent in Taylor, who started the rally with a single. Also, Brandon Booz's single to centerfield sent in two runs.
And Booz (2-for-3) later scored the first of his two runs on a throwing error, while Kevin Phelps' only at-bat helped ignite the rally in the fourth as his single brought in two runners.
Turlock American also got a major boost from Finegan in the fourth, as he sailed a three-run homer to right field and gave his team a 9-2 edge. Taylor followed that with a solo homer in the fifth. It also helped that the players only gave up three strikeouts in the game, compared to the 11 that they had against Madera National in the 10-run win a week earlier.
And the resurrection was complete.
“We came out flat,” Moore said. “But the bottom of our lineup gave us a spark, and from there we picked it up.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141.