Extra inning pitcher's duel with Woodcreek goes to Roseville West

Braxton Phillips delivers on mound for Roseville West
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The Tuesday night rematch between the Senior division all-star teams from Woodcreek and Roseville West was very different from Saturday’s initial meeting. In the prior contest at the Little League District 54 all-star tournament at Lembi Park, Woodcreek handled West 10-0 in a game that featured way too many walks on one side and a dominant pitching performance on the other. This time, in the championship round, the pitching came from both sides as Roseville West’s Braxton Phillips and Woodcreek’s Derek Guerra staged an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. The teams battled into extra innings tied at 1-1 before Roseville West scored the game-winner with two outs in the home half of the eighth to win 2-1. "I was a little surprised that they didn't pitch Perry (Beaber)," said Roseville West manager Greg James. "I thought they would throw Perry. On our side, I knew Braxton had the potential to pitch very well. He has not had an opportunity to start much because he was out early with a broken ankle but he has done some great things for us in relief." That result will bring the two squads back to the same location Thursday night to do it one more time for a section championship. The game sailed along with a rapid pace into the third inning, when Roseville West was first to break through. Cody Lindner opened that stanza with a single, stole second and then scored on a Phillips base hit. The advantage did not last long, as Woodcreek answered in resounding fashion. Lembi Park may be the most difficult park in the area in which to hit a home run, but Joey Valdez did. The Woodcreek third baseman took advantage of Phillips one major mistake of the day and launched it over the fence in left field, a two-out fourth inning solo shot the leveled the game. The score stayed that way clear through to the end of the regulation seven innings. The game may well have been decided while Woodcreek was hitting in the sixth and seventh innings. In both stanzas, Woodcreek loaded the bases, but Phillips escaped both times to keep the game tied. It was Phillips who loaded the bases in the sixth, as three walks did the trick before a fly ball to right field closed it out. In the seventh, he set down the first two hitters ahead of a single extended the inning. A fly ball to right was misjudged, and then Roseville West intentionally walked Austin Hagarty to bring up the dangerous George Corp with the bases loaded. "While I do give their pitcher a lot of credit for keeping us off balance, I think the key to the game was their defense," said Woodcreek manager Rich Hagarty. "They turned a couple of double plays, and their catcher was solid. We also didn't help ourselves - two missed bunt opportunities resulted in double plays and over half our outs were fly balls." Phillips did his thing again, getting a pop-up to shortstop to leave them all standing right there. Roseville West tried to get into a position to win in the bottom of the seventh, but it had a runner caught attempting to steal third for the third out of the inning. "It was so hard to get runners to third base," James said. "(Woodcreek catcher) George (Corp) does such a good job back there. We wanted to get that runner to third so we could have Kyle Burger squeeze him in. Burger is a very good bunter." Phillips lasted through the first out of the eighth before running out of pitches, and then Blake Rivera came on to get the final two outs that brought Roseville West to the dish with a chance to win the game. Burger couldn't go with the squeeze bunt when he lead off the eighth, but he did single to open the home half of the inning. Valdez, who had taken over for Guerra in the sixth, got the next two hitters. But then came Rivera, who drilled a line drive to right field that found its way over the head of the Woodcreek outfielder. "This was a big win for us," James said. "We had not beaten a Woodcreek team in all-star play in a long time." Burger seemed to hesitate coming around third, but he finally got it going and raced across home plate with the game-winning run. "I thought it was a well-played game," Hagarty said. "The way both teams were pitching and playing defense, I knew it was going to come down to who got the key hit. They got two of them in the eighth and deserved the win." The two teams are set up for an impressive pitching matchup between Roseville West’s Mark Reece and Woodcreek’s Perry Beaber Thursday night when they come back to Lembi for the title game. Thursday’s contest does not have a set game time yet, as it depends on the result of Wednesday’s Junior battle between the same two leagues. "I expect another one-run ball game," Hagarty said. "I have a lot of confidence in our pitching and defense - we just need do a better job of situational hitting and putting some pressure on their defense. If we do that, we should be in good shape." "We have not been able to solve Beaber yet," James said, "so that will challenge us. We put balls in play against him but we have not been able to string any hits together. Mark (Reece)has the potential to throw a big game for us, so I am expecting a close, low-scoring game Thursday." The winner of this tournament moves on to the Section 4 tourney that begins Saturday at American River College