Lakeside surges into Section 4 final

Frank, Hart lead the way for Major division all-stars
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The Lakeside Little League Major division all-stars always seem to be on the verge of an offensive explosion. To its credit, the team has a pitching staff that allows it to percolate for a while before finally unleashing its fury. In a battle for the position of advantage Monday night at Feist Park in Granite Bay, Lakeside kept itself in the winner’s bracket and sent West Sacramento back to battle Tri-City in an elimination game with an 11-0 win that did not look like that type of game at the outset. The Section 4 tournament contest had the look of a pitchers duel early on, as Lakeside ace Mitch Hart took turns posting zeroes with West Sacramento’s Kristian Heptner. Hart did not seem to have his best stuff, but after allowing two hits and four base runners in the first two innings, the powerful right-hander set down the last 11 batters he faced. “Mitch’s velocity was down a little tonight,” said Lakeside manager Bill Rockefeller, “but he is a pitcher. His ability to hit his spots and move the ball around is what stands out.” A one-out single by Grant Keeney followed by a rocket single by Nick Frank that pounded the fence in right field set the table for Lakeside to break the ice in the third. Billy Rockefeller reached on a fielder’s choice, while Keeney safely returned to third, and then a walk and two wild pitches later, it was 3-0 Lakeside. Hart struck out the side in third, and worked a three-pitch stanza in the fourth as he dominated the latter stages of the game. That effort, combined with the continued excellence of Frank at the plate, allowed Lakeside to put this one away early, after a six-run fifth provided the margin required to invoke the 10-run mercy rule. Frank blasted a two-run home run in the fourth and then sent a line drive three-run shot out to left in a hurry in the fifth as he capped a four-hit night. The fifth was also highlighted by singles from Connor Briare, Myles Slattery and Matt McCord. “Hitting for us is contagious,” Rockefeller said. “Frank has been in a zone four about a month. He is really hitting the ball well.” Lakeside is off until Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. title game at Feist Park, and is one win away from a trip to the Northern California Division 2 tourney. West Sac and Tri-City play Tuesday for the right to challenge Lakeside, and either would have to beat Lakeside twice to take the championship. “Staying in the winner’s bracket is the way to do this,” Rockefeller said. “We have days off to set up our pitching, while these other teams have to go through pitching to stay alive.”