Lakeside holds off Maidu in classic all-star battle

Major division tournament continues at Feist Park
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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It was the kind of game that reminds us why Little League all-star baseball is so special. Two outstanding teams getting great pitching performances, playing outstanding defense and battling to the bitter end. When that time came, the Maidu Major all-stars saw the final out recorded with the tying run 60 feet away from home as they lost to Lakeside 3-2 Tuesday at Feist Park in Granite Bay. The winner’s bracket contest at the District 54 Major division tournament Tuesday night was dominated by the guys on the bump. Lakeside managed just four hits in the game, but it got the clutch knocks that it needed. Maidu banged out six hits, but a mistake on the base paths and a Lakeside double play in the later innings sealed its fate. The game started much more positively for Maidu, as its lead-off batter in the home half of the first inning, Michael Birch, ripped a line drive over the barrier in left-centerfield to put his team on top. The problem for Maidu is that it was unable to deliver in scoring situations as the game progressed, and Lakeside right-hander Darren Nelson allowed runners to reach base, but he did not let Maidu bunch hits together to score runs. In the Maidu third, a Joseph Zanolli walk followed by a Jake Rodrigues single put two aboard with just one out, but Nelson got the strikeout and the ground out to escape. At that time the score was level at 1-1. Maidu’s hard-throwing Coleman Harrigan was strong for three innings, but yielded the bump to Rodrigues in the fourth. Lakeside had two hits off of Harrigan, a lead-off safety by Drew Tonda in the second and a run-scoring single by Charlie Tooley in the third. “The plan was to use them both (Harrigan and Rodrigues) for 65 (pitches) so they could go again on Saturday,” said Maidu manager Greg Zanolli in discussing the pitching change. “Harrigan’s 25 pitches in the first didn't help but it didn't change my plans.” Tooley’s two-out base hit chased home Kyle Galbaugh, who had walked, been sacrificed to second by Ryan Ingersoll and then moved to third on a wild pitch. Maidu’s best chance to change the 1-1 deadlock came in the bottom of the fourth frame when Tim Wieser singled down the right field line. Almost inexplicably, with the ball directly in front of him down the right field line, he fired around first base and roared towards second. The throw beat him there by a significant margin and his team was left with the bags vacant. Jordan Couch followed two batters later with a two-bagger, but it came with the bases empty and two outs, and Maidu did not find a way to score. Lakeside, however, did. Having had only two hits in the game heading into the top half of the fifth, it doubled that number and took a two-run lead. Reserve Oliver Whitters banged a base hit to open the inning, and after Rodrigues got a strikeout and a pop out, Jack Sutch delivered a shot over the center field fence that put Lakeside on top 3-1, and just six outs away from a victory. “Offensively, we always remind our boys that great hitters adjust and I saw that as the night progressed,” said Lakeside assistant Richard Sutch. “Maidu’s boys were bringing it but we adjusted just enough to be pesky and then get the huge hit when needed. Maidu is as good as advertised, but I think we showed that Lakeside has game as well. The fifth ended on the double play as Tooley turned a grounder to short into a rare ground ball twin killing after Zanolli had reached on a walk once again. With Nelson down to his last pitch before maxing out at the mandated 85, Lakeside sent him back out there to face the first hitter of the sixth. Nolan Murphy lifted a single to center, chasing Nelson after an outstanding effort. Max Shaw then followed with a ground ball that was misplayed to put a pair of runners aboard. “A classic Little League game that was truly well played by both teams,” Sutch said. “Our pitching and defense were outstanding. Aside from the obvious pitching gem from Darren, I thought the stellar play of Charlie Tooley at shortstop changed everything. We were and remain confident that our boys can pitch and keep teams off balance. That is exactly what Darren did (pretty good for an 11 year old!). We will not wow teams with gas but will make them work for every run.” Fresh off his heroics with the stick, Sutch willed his way through with the arm as well. He succeeded Nelson on the mound and after Maidu had put runners at second and third with no one out courtesy Shaw’s hustle in taking second while Lakeside was attempting to throw behind pinch-runner Justin Burnett at third. Maidu managed to scratch out one run to pull within one on an RBI groundout by Wieser, but Sutch stranded Shaw at third base while he struck out the final two Maidu hitters. “I still am very surprised we lost giving up only three hits,” Zanolli said. “We have the pitching but we need to start hitting the ball. One through 12 we can hit but it just hasn't happened yet in this tournament. The key will be to win while not burning our pitching so if we do make it out of the loser's bracket we have something left for Lakeside or Folsom American.” The loss sends Maidu into an elimination game Thursday against Roseville West at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Feist. Lakeside gets a few days off as it next plays at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in a winner’s bracket contest against Folsom American. “We are thrilled to have won our first two games and move into the winner’s bracket,” Sutch said. “Saturday should be exciting as Folsom American is playing great ball every game. They play all aspects of the game well and my hat is off to their coaching staff for the way they have prepared their boys. They are a class group of people and we look forward to playing them on Saturday.”