Woodcreek run ends at 10/11 divisional

By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The overwhelming nature of playing elimination games day after day took its toll on the Woodcreek Little League 10/11-year-old all-star team as its highly successful run came to an end Tuesday night at Rocklin’s Spring View Park. Woodcreek put runners on base all night, but was unable to deliver the big hits when they were needed as it fell to Madera American 4-2 in the loser’s bracket at the Northern California Division 2 tournament at the home of Tri-City Little League. “We played nine games in 11 days,” said Woodcreek coach Mike Watari. The boys were getting tired and it showed during the game. The energy level was not as high as it needed to be at this level.” Woodcreek had at least one base runner in every inning, and left nine of them out there, in addition to running into a couple of outs. The kids from Roseville out-hit Madera eight to five, but until the final frame they were unable to generate even a single run. “We had several opportunities to score but their pitchers threw well,” Watari said. Madera tallied first, with a run in the top half of the first inning. One-out singles by Fernando Galindo and Tristan Alvarez set the table, and then Galindo scored when a Joseph Catuiza come-backer bounced away from Woodcreek pitcher Clayton Hall, leaving him just a force out at second base while the runner raced home from third. Consecutive two-out base hits by Tyler Malone and Hall gave Woodcreek a scoring chance of its own in the home half. Malone was unable to score from second on the Hall knock as the Madera outfield, which got away with playing shallow the entire contest, got the ball in quickly and threw in behind Malone as he tried to retreat to third base. Hall did not allow another hit after the first inning, until the time he was relieved by Justin Watari with two outs in the fourth. Unfortunately for Woodcreek, Madera picked up two runs in the third without needing a hit. Three walks loaded the bags with no one out and then Woodcreek recorded the first out at home on a ground ball to Watari. Catcher Andrew Grinder threw to first in the attempt to complete a double play, but his throw got away and a run scored. Joe Rodriguez then hit what could have been a single to left, but Tyler Bounds hurried the return throw to second base for a force out, leaving Rodriguez with a fielder’s choice and an RBI as the inning’s second run came in to score from third. Catuiza was a difficult matchup for the Woodcreek hitters all day, as they were unable to stay back on his collection of soft stuff, which featured an outstanding knuckleball. The right-hander tossed four scoreless innings with a low pitch count before being removed as heading into the fifth, with nearly disastrous results. Back-to-back two-baggers by Rodriguez and Anthony Mamalaho scored Madera’s fourth run in the top of the fifth. Woodcreek’s first two hitters after the pitching change in the fifth were retired on ground balls, but that was followed by three walks to load the bases for red-hot Jake Dirkes, who entered the at-bat 2-for-2 in the game. Dirkes lifted a fly ball down the right-field line that was run down for the final out, and Woodcreek’s best scoring chance to that point came up empty. After some fine defense in the top of the sixth, when Woodcreek turned a 4-6-3 double play and got a running catch of a foul ball at the fence by Grinder, the team went to work in hopes of erasing a four-run deficit. A walk to Grinder, followed by singles from Justin Pejovich and Zac Erixon got Woodcreek a run with runners at first and third with no outs in the sixth. Watari sent Erixon from first, but Madera was willing to trade a run for an out and Galindo delivered a strong throw to the bag for the first out. The score was narrowed to 4-2, but that left the bases empty with one out. Justin Asuncion drew a walk to get things going again, but a pair of fly ball outs brought the rally, and Woodcreek’s season, to a sudden close. “I am very proud of these boys and the way they played this all-star campaign,” Watari said. “We are the only team to make a repeat trip to the state tournament and to be considered one of the top six in Northern California is a great accomplishment. I hope these boys have another opportunity next year to get to this same level.” Woodcreek, after winning the District 54 and Section 4 tournaments, ends up the tourney in fourth-place in the Northern California 10/11-year-old finals. Madera faces Napa National in an elimination game Wednesday, with the winner needing to take down unbeaten Danville twice to win the event.