Amidst the cowbells, whistles, and parents cheering with homemade signs showing support for their teams, the Turlock National Little League Major 10-12-year-old champions were crowned on Saturday.
In a game that featured stellar pitching, loud hits and outstanding defensive plays, the American Orioles claimed a 10-4 victory for the city championship over the American Cubs at Soderquist Park.
The Orioles broke the game loose in the top of the fifth, the only inning that their leadoff hitter didn’t reach base, coincidentally. With one out, pitcher Damon Treadwell smacked a three-run homer over the left-center field fence preceding a double and a run from first baseman Colin Van Winkle that helped the Orioles put the Cubs at an 8-1 deficit.
“I was glad that we won this game,” said Treadwell, 11, who also sparked a three-run Orioles rally with a leadoff double in the fourth and drove in four runs on the day. “Since we’re in a more major league now and it matters more, it feels good to win.”
Cub pitcher Brandon Booz did all he could to keep his team within striking distance. In the bottom of the fifth, with two runners aboard, he hit a booming home run to dead center field — his 16th of the season — to make it a four-run game.
The Orioles answered immediately in the sixth by bringing home two insurance runs to extend their lead to 10-4, sealing the victory and the city championship.
“We were pretty confident coming into the game,” said Orioles catcher James Schnebly, 12, who scored the final run of the game, capping the victory for the O’s. “Our coach just told us to stay loose before the game and have fun like we always do.”
The Orioles (25-3 overall) clinched the Turlock city crown by defeating the National Pirates and Cardinals in the first two rounds of the tournament before posting consecutive wins against the Cubs to take home a trophy that stood taller than some of the kids on the team.
“Our kids worked hard all year,” said Oriole coach Nick Pryshuk, who received great praise from many Oriole parents for the way he’s managed their kids over the past few years. “We practiced hard, especially towards the end, when other teams might have folded up, we kept chugging along and it paid off.”
The Orioles and Cubs weren’t the only teams battling for a city championship on Saturday. In the 8-10-year-old minor league championship game, the American Yankees claimed the city title with a 7-5 win over the National Owls.
“This was my first time playing in a championship game and I loved it,” said Yankee Cameran Sherwood.
At this age, it’s all about the kids having fun while learning the game. The traditional postgame pizza parties after a big win aren’t a bad deal, either.