Monday’s District 73 Little League semifinal matchup between Turlock American and Turlock National’s 11-year-old All-Stars was one to remember — a great contest between two of the best teams in the area in their respective age group.
With each team just one win away from reaching the title game from the Yosemite Little League ballpark at Coarsegold, in the end it was the National side who punched their ticket into the finale after an 8-6 contest that will be difficult to forget.
While the National are now one victory away from winning the tournament and advancing, the American side are in the consolation bracket and must win or go home.
“I was confident going into this game. I watched [American] play their first game…and felt from what I saw is we could play,” said National head coach Jeramie Helwick.
The National were coming off a close 1-0 victory over Atwater just the day before.
“I felt Atwater was the team to beat, well-rounded,” Helwick said. “I felt confident coming in because of that win.”
The American side were coming off a 9-0 win on Saturday over Los Banos prior to falling by a pair of runs to the National in a close game.
“A couple of little hiccups that I sent a guy at the end,” said American head coach Jeff Petersen. “Nothing wrong with being upset, a lot of the weight falls on my shoulders and a couple of things I think I could have done differently for a better outcome, but overall told them to keep their heads up, come back and play, one game at a time, one pitch at a time and be confident.”
The National side went up 3-0 after a three-run rally in the bottom of the first inning.
First it was Mason Helwick who scored after JJ Gutierrez drove him in to make it 1-0.
Angel Herrera scored after Landon Tilby drove him in for the second run and Tilby crossed home plate after stealing two bases with two outs to make it 3-0 by the end of the first.
Landon Petersen had an RBI in the top of the second for the American side as they cut the deficit to 3-1 by the start of the third and began to find their groove.
The American started off the third inning by getting three of the first four batters on base to load them up.
Then, Owen McCord came up and on the second pitch he cleared the bases for a three-run triple which gave the American a 4-3 lead.
By this point, pitcher Mason Helwick was taken out for the National team after he tossed 2 and ⅔ innings, finishing with 50 pitches.
Two runs were added in the top of the fourth by the American when Andrew Fisher hit an RBI double to drive in Vincent Perry and make it 5-3.
The sixth and final run of the game for the American side came in the middle of the next at-bat after Fisher made his way around to third base and then home after multiple throwing miscues that started with a passed ball, making it 6-3.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the National side saw a spark and the offense began to roll soon after.
The National had the heart of the lineup coming up in the bottom of the fifth and they took advantage of it, getting two of the first three batters on base.
Angel Herrera had an RBI to make it 6-4 after Landen Sanchez scored, then JJ Gutierrez cut the lead to 6-5 after he hit an RBI double to the center field fence.
Alex Vazquez followed that up with a clutch, three-run double over the center fielder’s head and into the fence which made it 8-6.
Sachin Chakravarty of the National side closed out the sixth inning, tossing a shutout 1 and ⅔ innings.
“We hit a low, but then we hit our stride again. We’ve got a lot of fight in some of these kids...I am excited, I think we can go far. I believe in these guys and I’m just excited to see what happens,” said Helwick.
“We had our opportunities and I took Bryce out, who pitched a great game and Cooper pitched fantastic in the first game, but they hit off him and it happens, they are a good team, we are a good team, but we are going to come back,” said Petersen.
Now, the National team is looking forward to their next game.
“I truly think we are in the driver’s seat. We will have two of our best pitchers available on Wednesday and we will not have a pitch count on them because it is the championship game,” Helwick added. “We’re ready to roll.”
The District 73 Championship game is slated to take place from Coarsegold at 7 p.m. Wednesday.