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Woodcreek 11s lose to Napa, face hard path in D2 tourney

By: Galen Kusic, Special to The Press Tribune
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The 10/11-year-old Woodcreek all-stars ran into trouble Sunday night when Napa National picked up its second straight victory of the Little League Northern California Divisional tournament at Spring View Park in Rocklin. Representing the host section, Woodcreek drew an opening bye in the six-team, double-elimination bracket, so while Napa was winning its Saturday opener, Woodcreek waited. When it finally got its chance to hit the diamond, the result was a 7-3 loss that puts the team on the long path through the loser’s bracket in its attempt to win the ultimate 10/11-year-old Little League title. The 10/11 playoffs end at the divisional level, so this will be the final week of their all-star run, regardless of the outcome. The tournament is being hosted by District 11 at the home of Tri-City Little League. Napa got out to a hot start when Dahlan Benere singled to center, advanced on an error to second and reached third on a passed ball. Joe Canepa then delivered with a hard-hit high chopper up the middle and into center, scoring Benere and giving Napa a 1-0 lead after one. Woodcreek answered back in the second when Clayton Hall led off with a single, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jake Dirkes walked, and Andrew Grinder continued his hot hitting with an opposite field RBI single. Zac Erixon kept the inning going with a run-scoring single of his own to score Dirkes. Justin Asuncion then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, before Justin Watari was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Brandon Zidek smoked a ball to short, too hot to be handled - scoring the run and giving Woodcreek a 3-1 advantage after two. Justin Pejovich was cruising on the mound for Woodcreek until the third when a leadoff walk to Michael Jankiewicz led to singles from Banare and Canepa to load the bases. It looked like Pejovich might get out of the jam unscathed when Hayden Vough hit a rocket ground ball to third - where Erixon made a great play, throwing home to get the force as Grinder turned and gunned down Vough at first for a double play. Napa's next batter, Cal Bard, had other ideas when he doubled to score Banare and Canepa. A sharply hit ball by Nick Akey resulted in an error, scoring Bard to give Napa a 4-3 lead. Erixon replaced Pejovich on the hill in the fourth. Benere collected his third hit of the night in the fourth on a frozen rope to dead center that cleared the fence for a two-run job. Napa struck again in the fifth as a walk and stolen base by Bard led to an infield single and RBI from Juan Lopez, widening the gap to 7-3. It was all Benere would need, as he went 5 2/3 strong innings, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out eight on 89 pitches. Benere was over the pitch count and done for the night after a single from Grinder and walk to Erixon in the sixth. Napa brought in Tony Dezhad to get the final out, and he did with a strikeout to end the game. The win leaves Napa in the winner’s bracket, where it will meet Danville on Tuesday night, while Woodcreek must now win five games in the next five days in order to escape the bottom half of the bracket to win the tourney. That gets started for Woodcreek Monday night with a 7:30 p.m. elimination matchup against Saratoga at Springview Park. The night’s 5 p.m. game is also an elimination contest between Madera American and El Rancho.