Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 8, 2011

Local teams playing a game of survival in District 52 Majors Little League tourneys

by James Huber

For the next few days, it's all about survival for local Little League all-star teams in District 52 Majors tournament action. Squads from Palo Alto, Menlo-Atherton and Alpine-West Menlo all are on the brink of having their respective seasons come to an end.

One more loss will do just that for three teams in the 11-12 tournament at Palo Alto's Middlefield Ballpark. In fact, only one of the three is guaranteed to survive Friday's consolation-bracket games.

Menlo-Atherton and Alpine-West Menlo will face each other at 5 p.m., with Palo Alto National taking on Foster City at 7:30 p.m. The Alpine/M-A winner will face the Palo Alto-Foster City winner on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. That survivor will play Sunday (5:30 p.m.) against the loser of Hillsborough and San Carlos American.

The District 52 11-12 championship game will be Monday at 7 p.m. A challenge game, if needed, will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. The district champion will advance to the Section 3 tournament in Danville.

Palo Alto National was the last of the three local teams to be knocked into the consolation bracket. That happened Tuesday night in a showdown with defending champion Hillsborough.

According to a baseball adage, good pitching always beats good hitting. Hillsborough sure proved that bit of wisdom true as it rode pitcher Blake Marcus to a convincing 5-1 victory over Palo Alto National.

After outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 26-2 in the first two games of the tournament, Palo Alto National was handcuffed by the hard-throwing Marcus and scored its only run on a sacrifice fly.

"My control was better than usual. I'm usually pretty wild," said Marcus, who didn't have any walks on the night. "I just went out there and did everything normally."

If "normal" means striking out 10 batters and only allowing three hits, then the rest of the District 52 all-star teams are in trouble as Hillsborough looks in prime position to defend its title.

"Sometimes you've just got to tip your hat because that guy is tough," said Palo Alto National manager Alex Byer. "That's one of the better pitchers you'll ever see in Little League."

Hillsborough set the tone early and was never really threatened the rest of the way. Michael Adams homered to start the game and left fielder Peter Love pushed the lead to 4-0 with a three-run home run later in the first inning.

"What was great about today's game was that we came out firing on all cylinders," said Hillsborough assistant coach Brian Farr. "We hadn't been hitting very well as a team lately and our bats really came alive."

The four-run lead proved to be more than enough support for Marcus, who only gave up one unearned run.

The inning when Palo Alto scored its only run started off with Alec Olmstead reaching on an error to lead off the fourth inning. He later moved to third on Riley Schoeben's double and was driven in by Eric Maser's sacrifice fly to left field.

Marcus snuffed out the rally, though, with a heads-up defensive play on Maser's fly ball, cutting off the throw home and catching Schoeben trying to advance to third on the throw.

Prior to Thursday night's game with San Carlos American, Hillsborough had won its three games by a combined score of 9-2. It's first two games were 3-1 and 1-0.

Hillsborough manager Gary Goodman attributed his team's close games so far this tournament to the quality of play in the area.

"District 52 is a superior district. We all have fun, but we all excel," said Goodman of the local all-star teams. "I think (District 52) is one of the best Little League districts in the nation."

In the other winners'-bracket game on Tuesday night, San Carlos American beat Alpine/West Menlo, 6-4. San Carlos American scored three times in the third inning to take the lead and then escaped from jams in the last three innings without giving up any runs.

In the top of the fourth, Alpine seemed to be on the verge of breaking the game open with the bases loaded with just one out. Two outs later, the score remained 5-4 as San Carlos escaped. In the top of the fifth, Alpine once again left the bases loaded while failing to score.

Alpine had 10 hits and led by 4-2 after two innings. Ryan Klapper led Alpine with three hits while Harrison Armsby added two.

On Wednesday, Menlo-Atherton remained alive with a 3-1 win over San Mateo American but Palo Alto American was eliminated following a 14-0 loss to Foster City in four innings.

PA American trotted out three different pitchers to no avail, as Foster City's hitters continually pounded out singles and doubles. Foster City scored eight runs in the first inning and six more in the third.

"All credit to them," said PA American manager Joe Adams. "Their hitting was just incredible and they played fantastic defense, too."

Foster City's R.J. Teijeiro, Nicky Nuņez and James Halpin combined to shut out PA American and only allowed two hits, with no Palo Alto runner getting farther than second base.

Foster City had four consecutive hits in the eight-run first inning, with Joe Veglak collecting two of his game-high three RBI on a double that scored Halpin and Sam Jacobson. Kyle Roux, Foster City's nine-hitter, brought home two more runs with a line-drive single up the middle and in his second at-bat of the inning, Austin Mah had a two-run double down the left-field line.

After escaping unscathed in the second inning, PA American wasn't so fortunate in the next frame. Foster City's first three hitters all walked to lead off the third inning and scored on hits by Teijeiro, Halpin and Jacobson.

"They just kept hitting and hitting," PA American catcher Jake Rittman said. "Some of the (the Foster City players) already had facial hair, which was a little scary."

Despite the decisive loss, PA American's players were in high spirits after the game.

"Last year we went 'one-two barbecue' and this year we came back and did really well and got three wins," left fielder Matt Knowles said. "There was also a good atmosphere this year because we got to play Palo Alto National."

Adams had nothing but praise for his squad that defeated Ravenswood, Redwood City American and Belmont in the tournament after losing both of its all-star games last year by mercy rule.

"I couldn't be prouder of the boys," Adams said. "We knocked two teams out of the tournament and surprised a lot of people with our play, including myself."

Menlo-Atherton played in Wednesday's early game and received solid pitching from Clay Prosser while advancing in the double-elimination tournament.

Menlo Atherton scored one run in the bottom of the first on back-to-back singles by Cole Hagerman and Blake Henry. San Mateo American tied the game in the top of the second on an RBI hit by Gabe Campos.

The wheels came off the bus for San Mateo American in the bottom of the second when four walks, an error and a pass ball resulted in two runs for Menlo. The 3-1 score held up through six innings.

In the District 52 Majors 10-11 all-star tourney in Belmont, all the local teams have been eliminated. Palo Alto American was the last remaining one until dropping a 9-8 decision to Foster City on Tuesday night despite a three-run homer by Bradley Smith.

In the District 52 Majors 9-10 all-star tourney at Lakeshore Park in San Mateo, Alpine-West Menlo was knocked out of the winners' bracket following a 3-1 loss to San Mateo National on Tuesday. Alpine next will play Friday against either Hillsborough or Pacifica American on the North Field at 5:30 p.m.

Alpine would have to win Friday, Saturday and Sunday to reach Monday's championship game (5:30 p.m.) and then win that to force a challenge game on Wednesday.

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