By RicK Chandler
Palo Alto Online Sports
It took six pitchers and a big rally in the seventh inning, but the Menlo-Atherton Little League All-Stars lived to fight another day in the District 52 11-12 year-old Tournament on Wednesday.
Back-to-back two-run doubles by Andrew Daschbach and Jack Gray broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning, as M-A topped Pacifica American, 6-2, in a losers'-bracket game at Ortega School in Pacifica. M-A plays again today, taking on San Carlos, which beat San Mateo American, 7-5, also on Wednesday.
In the winners' bracket final today, Hillsborough meets Half Moon Bay.
Three pitchers combined to strike out nine over the first five innings as M-A built a 2-0 lead. Daschbach singled home a run in the first, and Jackson Salabert doubled home Harrison Toig in the fourth for M-A's runs. But Pacifica scored two in the bottom of the sixth to tie it and send it to extra innings.
In the top of the seventh for M-A, Salabert and Mason Randall both walked and Arnaud Laprais singled to load the bases, before Daschbach delivered a drive that hit the top of the fence in right field.
"It felt good, because I had been struggling a little bit with my hitting," said Daschbach, who hit 14 home runs during the regular season, but has not yet hit one in All-Stars. "Pacifica kept battling and battling, but so did we."
Gray followed Daschbach with a drive to the gap in right-center that cleared the bases and gave M-A its final margin of victory.
In an effort to preserve their pitching (M-A needs to win four games in four days to take the tournament title), M-A used a multitude of hurlers on Wednesday; the standout being Salabert, who struck out five of the six batters he faced over the third, fourth and fifth innings. Reid Fratt was the final pitcher, getting the last two outs of the game on a strikeout and a popup to first.
Ethan Stern got things off to a good start with a lead-off home run to set the tone for Palo Alto National in its 7-1 victory over host San Mateo National in the District 52 10-11 All-Star Tournament on Wednesday.
The big story for the PA National squad was the performance of pitcher Ryan Chang, who went 5 1/3 innings while giving up just one hit, one walk and no runs. Throughout the game, Chang kept the San Mateo all-stars off balance with a a steady diet of low fast balls and change-ups.
Chang's pitching exploits were supported by another strong defensive effort. In the past two games, the Palo Alto squad has committed only two errors and allowed two walks. The defensive effort was highlighted by two double plays with Stern turning the plays at second. Brian Tracy was steady behind the plate, blocking balls and calling a great game.
In the third, Palo Alto picked up one more run with back to back hits from Schoeben and Alec Olmstead. The game was still in doubt until the bottom of the fifth when Palo Alto added three runs off of a single by Tommy Smale and a clutch double by Peter Snodgrass. In the top of the sixthh, the scrappy San Mateo National team tried to mount a comeback off a Palo Alto error and an RBI double, but Smale got the final two outs to end the game with a clutch relief job.
The win sends Palo Alto National into the championship series with Belmont-Redwood Shores, the only unbeaten team in the tournament. In its run through the losers' bracket, Palo Alto National team has won five games in a row, scoring 42 runs while allowing just three. Palo Alto will need to keep the momentum going for two more games to knock out the Belmont Redwood-Shores team and take the District 52 title.
The first championship game is scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and the final game, if necessary, will be on Friday at 5:30 p.m.