Maidu survives Lakeside, wins Major all-star title

Two home runs, sixth-inning escape provide tournament win
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Pitching, defense and timely hitting are major keys to victory in big baseball games. In the biggest Little League Major division baseball game so far this season, Maidu did not have a huge number of hits, but it got the big hits at the right time. At the same time, Lakeside was betrayed by its defense just long enough to open the door for Maidu team that was ready to take advantage. The opportunistic Maidu team scored four times in the fourth frame to come from behind for a 5-3 win Wednesday in the championship game of the District 54 all-star tournament at Granite Bay’s Feist Park. The game looked like anything but a Maidu win early on, as Lakeside opened a 2-0 lead behind left-hander Jack Sutch, who quieted the Maidu bats through three. A lead-off single by Ryan Ingersoll and a two-out RBI base hit from Darren Nelson put Lakeside on top 1-0 after the top of the first frame against Maidu starter Jake Rodrigues. The inning might have been bigger except that Maidu second baseman Max Shaw took a hit away from Sutch on a diving play. Sutch, who beat Maidu with a late long ball earlier in the double-elimination tournament, left the yard again in the third. His solo shot made the score 2-0. With Maidu managing just a Joseph Zanolli second-inning single through the first three against Sutch, it appeared that the two-run margin might be enough. Lakeside had a chance to expand its advantage in the top half of the fourth as it mounted a two-out opportunity against Rodrigues. After the right-hander got the first two outs quickly, Garrett Walker ripped a double and then Nick Dumke reached on an infield single. Maidu escaped as Oliver Whitters bid for a big hit was flagged down at the mound by Rodrigues for the third out. Nursing a two-run lead into the home half of the fourth, Sutch seemed to be cruising, but then Lakeside’s defense made two crucial mistakes that turned the tide and sent a jolt of energy into the Maidu dugout. For three innings, the bench had been a picture of frustration and uncertainty, but the base runners brought new hope and new life. With one out, Peter Schofield hit a ground ball that looked like a certain out until the throw to first was mishandled. Schofield ended up at second base on the play. Zanolli followed that with a ground ball to second base that was juggled momentarily causing a rushed throw that was wide of the mark. “Two fielding mistakes with two outs changed our 2-0 lead into a 4-2 deficit,” said Lakeside coach Richard Sutch. “After that we tried to fight back but came up short.” Jordan Couch was next, and his bid for a three-run home run to right field came up just short as it was caught just shy of the wall. Schofield was able to tag up and score on the play to bring Maidu within one run at 2-1. Eddie Gleason extended the inning with a two-strike single, just his team’s second hit of the contest, into right field that put two runners aboard for Nolan Murphy. The Maidu first baseman then delivered the biggest hit of the night, a line drive that sailed beyond the barrier in right-centerfield for a three-run home run. “What a huge home run from Murphy after they gave us two extra outs that inning,” said Maidu manager Greg Zanolli. “We were very fortunate tonight but that is how this game is sometimes. Jack Sutch was pitching a brilliant game up until the Murphy home run.” Despite having just three hits against Sutch, Maidu found itself on top 4-2 at the end of the fourth. Lakeside got its chance to capitalize on a Maidu miscue in the fifth when Sutch reached on a one-out error. He advanced around to third on back-to-back wild pitches. Charlie Tooley walked before Maidu’s attempt at an inning-ending double play grounder fell through when the throw to first was mishandled. Sutch scored on the play to draw his team within a run. Kevin Baranowski singled, but then Lakeside stranded two runners for the second consecutive stanza when Zanolli came out of the bullpen to get an inning-ending strikeout on a trio of breaking pitches. Shaw added a huge insurance run to the Maidu cause with a solo home run in the bottom half of the fifth, and then Zanolli took to the bump seeking to close out a district title for the Maidu all-stars. Zanolli got his second strikeout to open the Lakeside sixth, but then it became nervous time in the Maidu dugout on the first base side. Dumke drew a walk, which was followed by a Kyle Galbaugh base hit, putting the tying runs on base with just one out. Ingersoll’s bid for a base hit was turned into the second out courtesy some strong glove work by Rodrigues, now at shortstop. Zanolli slowed the ball by getting a glove on it as is passed the mound, and then Rodrigues snagged it behind the second base bag, and seeing he had no play on the runner at second, he fired a shot to first to nip Ingersoll for the second out. “We made some terrific defensive plays that kept us in the game on a night that our pitching wasn't as dominant as it has been,” Greg Zanolli said. “We were just good enough not to allow the big two-out hit and allow Lakeside to bust the game open.” Sutch was up next, with the tying runs at second and third. The left-handed swinger has been a thorn in Maidu’s side during this tournament, and Greg Zanolli decided to put Sutch on base and take his chances with the talented Lakeside No. 3 hitter, Charlie Tooley. "Sutch had killed us, and being a lefty Joseph's curve wouldn't be quite as effective, so with the free base, even though he was the winning run, it was an easy decision to face Tooley,” Greg Zanolli said. The intentional walk loaded the bases and intensified the dramatic finish to an outstanding championship game. On this day, Zanolli got the best of Tooley, getting the strikeout that ended Lakeside’s season and delivered the district banner and a trip to the Section 4 tournament to the squad from Maidu. “Joseph was incredibly composed and clutch with the two-on strikeout in the fifth and then striking out Tooley in the sixth with the bases loaded was a terrific moment for me the manager but even more so for the dad,” Greg Zanolli said. “For the third straight year we were in the championship game and for the third straight year we finished second in district,” Sutch said. “Not what the boys wanted but probably a great life lesson moving forward. Good luck to Maidu and we hope and expect they will do well in sectionals.” A big story in the game was the tale of missed opportunities. Lakeside stranded nine runners in the contest, with seven of them coming in the last three innings, while Maidu left just three base runners out there. “We gave up only 15 runs in nine games so our pitching and defense were certainly our strengths,” Greg Zanolli said. “Timely hitting was the key to tonight's win and it game via the long ball. Lakeside is a great team and they had a great tournament. My congratulations to Gary and the rest of his team on a great performance.” The hits were spread out in this game, as a dozen different players had one hit each. Eight different Lakeside hitters each had one knock in the game as Lakeside out-hit Maidu 8-4. “I couldn't be prouder of these boys, to battle and win two of the last three games from behind on their way to winning five games in seven days is quite the accomplishment,” Greg Zanolli said. Maidu has the first round bye in the Section 4 tournament, and it will play the winner of a Saturday first round game between two Sacramento-based districts (6 and 7) in a 5 p.m. Sunday game at Mann Park in Folsom. “All tournament we received contributions from all 12 of our players and tonight was no exception,” Zanolli said. “We will now move on to sections and look forward to playing some great teams. If we continue to pitch, play good defense and get the timely hits we have an excellent chance. By the luck of the draw we drew a first round bye so we will go watch District 6 and 7 play on Saturday night and get ready for the winner on Sunday.”