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Maidu Majors finish pool play unbeaten

Win over Folsom American prep for tournament's final round
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The game had no bearing on which team will eventually win the tournament and that gave both squads a chance to spread the playing time around. The Major division teams from Maidu and Folsom American Little Leagues both knew they were advancing out of pool play at the District 54 all-star tournament before taking the field Friday at Granite Bay’s Feist Park. Maidu jumped out early and then held to win 4-3 on as Folsom staged a late rally that came up just short in the sixth. Both teams showed off their pitching depth in this one, and in the end Maidu went to hard-throwing Jake Rodrigues to close it out in the sixth. His team flashed the leather more than once in this contest, most memorably on a game-saving play in that final frame. With Folsom American on the verge of tying the game with one out in the home half of the sixth, Justin Burnett pulled the ball out of the left field corner, gunned it to Jordan Couch, who wheeled and gunned down Addison Lueras at the dish to preserve a one-run Maidu advantage. Maidu opened the scoring in the first as Rodrigues reached on an infield single and eventually scored on a ground ball to the first baseman by Tim Wieser. It added a second run in the second when Michael Birch’s ground ball found its way under the glove of the Folsom American shortstop. He eventually scored when his base running created a throwing error. Overall, the pitching was outstanding, as Maidu got two shutout innings each from Wieser and Jake Monsour. Each hurler allowed just one hit in his time on the bump. Monsour did pitch his way into a bit of a mess in the third with a pair of walks that loaded the bases, but he got a pop out and a strikeout to escape. Folsom countered with the pitching of Jack Wolger and Jacob MacFarlane as Maidu had plenty of base runners early, but scored just the two runs. It appeared that Maidu had put the game on ice in the top half of the fifth, when a walk and a Wieser single put two aboard. Couch doubled home one run and then Birch chased home the second with a base hit. Folsom pitcher William Martina managed to limit the damage there, as he got a strikeout and then Maidu ran into an out trying to score on a wild pitch. The 4-0 lead with just six outs to get was nearly not enough for Maidu. Martina blasted a solo home run in the fifth and then Brad Funk led off the FALL sixth with another solo shot. After Jake Jeffrey singled and Lueras walked to put the tying runs aboard, Maidu manager Greg Zanolli went to his ace, Rodrigues to close it out. A strikeout was followed by a Anthony Baciocco rocket inside the third base bag, scoring Jeffrey. In an attempt to get the game tied right then, the Folsom third base coach sent Lueras, but Maidu’s well-executed relay erased that run, leaving Baciocco at third with two outs. Martina dropped a bunt in an attempt to get the tying run home, but Rodrigues pounced and gunned his throw to nip the runner at first base. Martina was flying and lunged towards the bag, going all out to beat the throw and went down with an apparent ankle injury. Both teams will join Roseville West, Lakeside, Ponderosa and El Dorado Hills South in the six-team double-elimination final round that begins Monday night at Feist Park. “These are the six teams I thought would be moving on to the second round,” Zanolli said. “All the teams bring something to be concerned about. On the pitching front Roseville West has Keefe and Hansen while Folsom American has Funk and Wood as power pitchers and Hook brings a very good curveball. “I think Lakeside has a very good offensive team so pitching and defense will be key against them. EDH South and Ponderosa are both very good hitting teams with power in their line up as well.” The brackets for the tournament finals will be filled by a random blind draw Saturday night. With a six-team field, two teams will draw an early bye. “The first big moment of the next round will occur Saturday night when the draw occurs,” Zanolli said. “Whichever two teams receive the bye will have a big advantage. It is the luck of the draw unfortunately that will determine who will be the teams to beat.” The absence of Woodcreek in the final group is notable, and Maidu has as much talent as any team in the tournament. ”I think on paper we have as good a chance as anyone with pitching being our strength,” Zanolli said. “Led by our two power pitchers, Rodrigues and Harrigan, and Zanolli as a good third option or closer if pitch counts become an issue. As is always the case in these tournaments it will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes and who gets that timely hit. The key is to stay out of the losers bracket and hope for the bye.”