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Menlo Atherton Little League all-stars run into early trouble

 

The winner of the District 52 Little League Majors all-stars tourney has had an enviable run two of the past three years.

After a convincing 13-0 victory over the Menlo Atherton stars Friday evening at Ford Field in Portola Valley to start this year's district 52 version, count San Mateo National as a formidable foe in the days ahead.

In 2013, Belmont-Redwood Shores came within a win of going to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., falling 9-0 to Eastlake of Chula Vista, the eventual U.S. champ. Two years ago, it was Pacifica American's turn to flirt with a trip east, losing 11-2 in the Western Regional title game to Mountain Ridge of Las Vegas, which lost in the American championship.

SM National, which won last year's 11-year-old district title, added outstanding shortstop Jake Willerup, who played up on the 12s as an 11-year-old last year.

"That's a great team," said Menlo Atherton manager Rod MacLeod of SM National. "They played solid defense. They hit the ball real well and didn't make mistakes. It's hard to beat a team like that. That's as good a baseball team as I've seen in awhile."

MA trailed 1-0 after a solo homer by Daren Randolph to start the game. The MA stars answered with a one-out double to left-center field by Matt MacLeod in the bottom of the first. Jackson Vontz lined a single to center with MacLeod stopping at third. Nate Baxter drew a two-out walk to load the bases, but SM National starter Chris Kelly got the final out on an infield grounder to third.

SM National sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the second, scoring six runs on six hits to take a 7-0 lead. MA committed two errors in the inning, but all runs were earned after an opposite field solo shot to left-center by catcher Pablo Ossio, who added a two-run double in the sixth for a 3-RBI game.

MA's John Quinlan doubled to left-center to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Quinlan, however, was thrown out at third after tagging on a liner to deep center. Randolph delivered the perfect throw with Mikey Agelopoulos applying the tag.

MA had one more hit in the game, a single by Baxter with one out in the fourth inning. Three SM National hurlers combined to fan nine MA batters.

"Their third pitcher (Ryan Ivers) was the best pitcher I faced this game," Matt MacLeod said. "He had good off-speed pitches and kept us off-balance."

Rod MacLeod wasn't conceding the District 52 crown to SM National, just yet.

"In the past, we've played against some strong Hillsborough and Half Moon Bay teams," MacLeod said. "Pacifica American has been strong."

MA has another chance in the double-elimination tourney, taking on either Foster City of San Mateo American Saturday at La Entrada Field at 4:30 p.m.

"We'll come out and play better the next game," said Matt MacLeod, who will attend Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park this fall.

In district Majors games involving local teams Saturday: Hillsborough vs. Palo Alto National at Ford Field, 9 a.m.; Palo Alto American vs. Redwood City East at La Entrada Field, 11:30 a.m.; Ravenswood (East Palo Alto) vs. Pacifica National at Ford Field, 11:30 a.m.; and Alpine-West Menlo vs. Pacifica American at Ford Field, 2 p.m.

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