Heart-wrenching loss for Petaluma National Little Leaguers
Published: Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.
The Petaluma National Little League let one slip away in the NorCal Division II Tournament by allowing two unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, leading to a heart-wrenching 8-7 walk-off defeat at the hands of San Ramon in Fremont on Friday.
The Nationals took a 7-6 advantage into the last half inning, but a costly walk and a couple of misplays wound up setting the stage for a winner-take-all championship contest today.
The winner advances to the Regional Tournament in San Bernardino. No Petaluma team has reached the regional level since a Petaluma Valley Little League team reached that lofty height in 1995.
The two programs could not be more evenly matched than Petaluma National and San Ramon. They have split championships at the NorCal level during the last two seasons. Two years ago, San Ramon claimed the 9-10-year-old crown by beating the Nationals in Chico, and last year, the kids from Petaluma battled back from the losing bracket to emerge with the 10-11-year-old crown at Folsom.
Petaluma had a golden opportunity to plate two important insurance runs in the top of the sixth Friday following leadoff singles by James O'Hanlon and Porter Slate. Both runners were advanced by a perfect sacrifice bunt by Logan Douglas with the No. 3 and cleanup batters due up. Neither of Petaluma's more productive hitters could deliver this time around, and the game was eventually lost in the bottom half of the same frame.
Hard-luck pitchers Bradley Smith and Andrew White were the victims in the final inning, but the final ground ball was a hard smash that skipped past the second baseman and rolled all the way to the outfield fence while the tying and winning runs came across the plate.
Sam York of San Ramon almost hit a walk-off home run over the right field fence earlier in the inning, but the ball sailed foul with plenty of distance. He followed that drive with what should have been a single to center field on the bounce, but the cut off was fielded by White who threw to third for the put out.
Danny Marzo started on the hill for Petaluma, and left the game with a lead, but lost the battle to the pitch count. Marzo was touched for four runs in the first inning, but three of them scored when a bases-loaded pop fly was lost in the sun by the National outfield.
The Nationals came roaring back to score five runs in their half of the third inning to take a 6-4 lead. Marzo and Smith knocked in runs with singles and Quinton Gago ended the scoring with a mammoth home run that bounced off a parked car deep past the left field fence.
Petaluma out-hit San Ramon, 10-6, but its defense, which has been so sound during the playoffs, failed at pivotal spots during the game. Marzo wound up with three hits ,including a well-hit solo homer and three runs scored for the Nationals.
Pat Chalmers and Ben Woodridge hit home runs for San Ramon. The winners also coaxed seven walks, making use of a tight strike zone to put pressure on the National defense.
Petaluma has out hit San Ramon, 28-12, in splitting two games in the tournament. Everything now will depend on how deep each team is in the pitching department for the all-important final game.
Both teams were well represented with spirited supporters among the big crowd that surrounded the entire park.
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