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Woodcreek 11s recover with big, early offense

Long road left in pursuit of Northern California all-star title
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The 11-year-old all-stars from Woodcreek Little League put the doubts to bed early Monday night, jumping on Saratoga from the opening pitch in winning an elimination game in the Northern California Division 2 10/11-year-old tournament at Spring View Park in Rocklin. “I told the team at the beginning of the game that no matter what happens, they are one of the top six teams in Northern California,” said Woodcreek manager Mike Watari. “Just play hard and have fun. I also told them to not put extra pressure on themselves because at the state level, there is already enough pressure.” After losing their opener on Sunday night, and facing a long uphill battle through the loser’s bracket, Woodcreek jumped on Saratoga starter Austin Bakke with 10 runs on nine hits before Saratoga batted in the home half of the second. The 10-0 advantage allowed Watari to reach for the bullpen early and save starter Tyler Malone for another day. “Our pitching is still in good shape so the key to continuing play is to throw strikes, especially that first strike,” Watari said. Malone threw a 1-2-3 first before shutting it down for the night, yielding the bump to a trio of relievers as Woodcreek went on to a 13-7 victory. The contest was never that close, although Saratoga did manage three in the second to make things interesting. In the end, Woodcreek flirted with the 10-run mercy rule the entire game until a three-run home run with two outs in the Saratoga sixth made the final count appear more competitive. Malone had a single, double and triple to pace the Woodcreek offense, which also benefited from two hits each by Tyler Bounds, Jake Dirkes and Clayton Hall in an attack that featured an even dozen hits. The win followed Sunday’s 7-3 loss to Napa National, a game that Woodcreek led 3-1 before seeing it all slip away from them. “All in all, I was happy with how the boys bounced back tonight,” Watari said. “Last year at the state tourney, we were 0-2. I certainly didn't want that to happen again this year.” Woodcreek opened the first with consecutive singles from Justin Watari and Bounds, and after Malone walked, Hall chased home two with a base hit before Dirkes drove home another with the fourth knock of the stanza. Justin Pejovich added another hit as the squad scored five on five hits. The second was much the same, with singles by Justin Asuncion, Bounds and Malone and a two-bagger from Hall leading the way to another five-run frame. Malone’s triple was the key blow in the two-run third as Woodcreek built its margin to 12-3. Kyle McCauley had three hits for Saratoga, including the three-run blast in the sixth that closed the margin down to six runs. The loss ends Saratoga’s all-star run. Woodcreek faces Madera American at 5 p.m. on Tuesday night in another elimination game, with the prospect of as many as three more to follow as long as the winning continues. Tri-City Little League and District 11 are the hosts of the tourney at Rocklin’s Spring View Park.