Monday's semifinal game between the Turlock American and National 13-year-old All-Stars started off back and forth, but ended in a remarkable comeback from the Americans who overcame a seven-run deficit in the final inning to capture the win.
It was a battle between two teams which are familiar with one another and perhaps that became the biggest difference.
In the end, Joe Mikkelson became the hero for the American side after drilling a three-run triple to cut the deficit to one run. He then followed up with the tying run at 14 and after a mishandled ball, stole home from third base with one out to end it at 15-14 in a walk-off ending.
“That last inning is what you play for, that is the adrenaline you want, just one base at a time and one hit at a time, never quit,” said American coach Nick Bashaw. “They were excited and I was really happy, but a walk off win in the All-Stars is something they will never forget and exciting for me as a coach as well.”
“I told them they all did well and that is just the way things go sometimes, the other team just beat us and there is nothing you can say or do,” said Nationals head coach Mike Sutton.
The American team went up early, 4-1, after the first inning and then the second inning went three up and three down for both sides before the third inning.
In the top of the third, the Nationals revved it up on the offensive side as they went on to score six runs in the inning alone that saw a two-run double from Joey Azevedo.
Azevedo went on to score the seventh run from second base and the Nationals went up 7-4 heading into the fourth inning.
Azevedo started for the Nationals and went six innings before being subbed out after finishing with 94 pitches.
The National and American sides exchanged runs in the fourth and with an 8-5 score after the fourth ended, the Nationals extended their lead to 10-5.
Just looking to grind it out, the Americans captured a run in the fifth to make it 10-6 with just two innings left but they went down by eight runs after the top of the sixth, trailing 14-6.
Trailing 14-8 going into the seventh, the American side started off with a base hit and went on to score two runs with no outs followed by five runs with just one out that was highlighted by Mikkelson's performance from the plate and the mound after pitching four innings.
“We had a couple errors and they hit the ball, what can you do, I mean, nothing you can do,” said Sutton. “All the kids did a very good job but sometimes when the ball doesn't roll the way it does, we have bad plays and they get on and it's a nightmare for us and now we go home."
“It was a lot of runs, but they are a good hitting team as long as they stick together and if they do that they will score runs and they got hits and found the gaps,” said Bashaw. “But I had a feeling the kids definitely had a chance to win.”