For the third time in five days, the Gilroy Little League Majors
American and National league All-Stars took to opposing dugouts at
Eastridge Little League’s Tony Jimenez Field in San Jose.
For the third time in five days, the Gilroy Little League Majors American and National league All-Stars took to opposing dugouts at Eastridge Little League’s Tony Jimenez Field in San Jose.
Game 1 went to manager Rick Cook’s American contingent Saturday. Game 2, Tuesday, with the Nationals fighting for their postseason lives and having already won two straight tilts to earn a berth into the championship round, manager Jason Krulee’s Little Leaguer’s staved off elimination with an 8-4 victory.
That win forced Wednesday night’s rubber match – a winner-take-all showdown to decide the District 59 champion.
“It was like the whole town was up here. That’s great,” Cook said of an enthusiastic crowd that filled the bleachers on both sides of the field. “That’s what you get from a small town like this. Gilroy is very lucky to have two talented teams.”
The action played out just as loud as the cheers and no lead proved safe in what turned into a slugfest between two teams swinging hot bats. The ping of metal bat on ball rarely ceased, and after three lead changes and one tie, the Nationals prevailed 14-10 to become the first GLL representative to claim a Majors division All-Stars district title since 1991.
“I think it came down to the kids believing in themselves,” Krulee said. “They really gelled together. They never put their heads down.”
Once the standard awards ceremony had been taken care of, a more jovial celebration followed suit in the center of the infield, complete with sparkling apple cider showers and more junk food than a bountiful haul of candy on Halloween.
“Yesterday we kind of beat ourselves with some of the errors, but today, they just flat out outplayed us,” Cook said. “It’s as simple as that, really.”
Though the Nationals had the final say on the scoreboard, both teams, collectively, one-upped Tuesday’s contest that featured three home runs, including an Aidan Goicovich grand slam, by turning in a combined 19 hits (12 from the National side) and four round-trippers.
“We knew that (the American) team was bigger and stronger and had a lot of great pitching. These kids, from the beginning of the tournament, put the bat on the ball well,” Krulee said.
As they did in Tuesday’s game, the Nationals cashed in on a pair of American defensive miscues by way of Kevin Krulee, who led off the game with an infield single, scooting home on a misguided throw from starting pitcher Anthonee Bartholic to second base in attempt to force a runner.
The minuscule 1-0 lead multiplied in the second as Goicovich again muscled up, lifting a three-run home run to right field for a 4-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, on the mound, Goicovich cruised through the American line-up in innings one and two, stringing together four strikeouts, spanning the end of the first and top of the second. Goicovich finished with seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings pitched.
“He had the loss when they beat us on Saturday,” Jason Krulee said. “He wanted the ball today. He took it and pitched well all day long. If it wasn’t for a couple of untimely errors, that game could’ve been a blowout.”
The error came with one out in the bottom of the third as a seemingly harmless ground ball off the bat of Bartholic bounced its way over two gloves and into center field. The ensuing batter, Brandon Cook, took a pitch off the top of his helmet to load the bases and Mikey Sanchez shot the next pitch to left field for a RBI single, scoring Scott Fernald, who single to start the frame, to get the ball rolling for the Americans.
“We were just trying to keep hitting the ball and get runs in,” Sanchez said.
Nick Garcia drew a walk that plated Bartholic, inching the Americans to within a 4-2 margin. Brendan Lerma delivered a bases-clearing double and later concluded a trip around the bags on a wild pitch to complete the six-run inning, leaving the score 6-4.
The Nationals chased Bartholic from the game with one out in the fourth as they quickly erased the two-run deficit to take a 7-6 lead.
“It got them rejuvenated again,” Jason Krulee said. “We had a real costly error there that basically put six runs on the board. But again they didn’t put their heads down. They kept fighting.”
Dillon McFarland’s RBI fielder’s choice and Anthony Drysdale’s two-RBI double went toward the three-run fourth.
“We weren’t hitting as good at the beginning of the tournament,” Drysdale said. “But we have been hitting the last three games.”
Goicovich, standing nearby chimed in, “I think we are a great hitting team.”
It wasn’t long before Sanchez, with a RBI double, and the Americans tied it at 7-7 in the bottom of the fourth.
With no sign of either offense slowing, the Nationals tallied three times in their half of the fifth. Kevin Krulee, who went 3-for-3, singled home Connor Doyle and McFarland plated two with a base hit.
Why stop there?
Lerma kept the Americans close with a solo shot to center to make it 10-8 heading into the sixth and final inning.
“I’m happy (with second place,) but I still wanted to move on,” Lerma said.
The Nationals poured it on, however, extending their cushion another four runs courtesy of a Kevin Krulee two-RBI single and a Dylan McPhillips two-run blast over the scoreboard in left-center field.
“I was surprised with myself,” McPhillips excitedly said, holding his prized home run ball.
Sanchez capped a 3-for-4, four RBI day with a rocket over the right-field fence to get the Americans to 14-10. But the rally stopped soon after as Larry Chacon closed out the triumph two batters later.
“At the end of the day, like I told the players, they competed, they tried to fight back,” Rick Cook said. “But they came up short. You have to hand it to (the Nationals.)
The win propels the Nationals into the section tournament in Watsonville, hosted by District 39. The locals begin play Saturday at 5 p.m. at Franich Field.