The 11-year olds of the Turlock American Little League All-Stars had one major problem glaring back at them in the District 10 Championship on Monday night in Madera. And Coach Nick Pryschuk knew how to fix it.
In the fifth inning, he instructed his batters to wait for the second strike before swinging. That forced the opposing Riverpark ace, who seemed to have been keeping the Turlock Americans in check all evening, to build up his pitch count. It worked well, as the pitcher made his fifth-inning exit after reaching 85 pitches.
“That drove the door open for us,” Pryschuk said.
In triumphant fashion, Turlock American's Michael Govea smacked a single to right field at the bottom of the sixth inning to send in Marcus DeCouto from second to win in nail-biting style, 6-5. It meant Pryschuk and his 11-year olds captured the district title, though their Little League adventure will last for at least two more games.
They're set to play the District 8 champion in the district qualifying round at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Lemoore. To get to this point, the Turlock Americans had to experience their first loss in the All-Stars tournament. That happened the night before, when they lost 8-6. Pryschuk said that outcome could have been different if the officiating crew hadn't reversed his team's triple play that seemingly ended the game.
Instead, Riverpark got new life and capitalized: The Fresno-area squad won with a late-game home run.
Turlock American remained positive entering the second and deciding game of the district championship, even when the locals found themselves at a 4-1 disadvantage after two innings while facing Riverpark's top pitcher.
Dylan Roberts came in the second to relieve, and things began to roll for Turlock American. He threw until he couldn't any more, after he reached his 85-pitch count in the final inning. Tristan Palmer came in for the save with two outs left.
But again, there was a major problem glaring at them: the Riverpark pitcher.
“As soon as he left,” Pryschuk said, “you could feel the whole shift change.”
Then came DeCouto's double during Turlock American's final at-bat, followed by Govea's game-winning RBI to right.
“It was a big relief,” Pryschuk said.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.