Handcuffed most of the game by a gritty pitching performance by Aaron Krupinsky of Whitman Insurance, streaking EMG from the National League rallied for eight runs in the final two innings to capture the Petaluma Little League City Championship with a 9-2 victory on Saturday.
Krupinsky grimly held on to a 2-1 advantage going into the fifth frame, but a fly ball home run over the left field fence by shortstop Cole Powers helped grease the skids for a seven-run rally that would follow in the next inning. Powers found a pitch up in the zone to his liking and lofted his blast to left-center which opened the doors when the EMG club loosened up a bit when the game was on the line.
It was no surprise that EMG made it to the finals. The Sanderson Trophy winners captured the National League Tournament earlier, and took a six-game winning streak into the championship game after blasting Beyond the Glory, 10-2, on Thursday.
Upstart Whitman earned its way into the championship contest by defeating Athletic Edge from the American League, 11-3. Whitman finished fourth in the Petaluma Valley League, but came on strong to also carve out six consecutive victories in the tournament.
RBI hits by Krupinsky and Elijah Waltz gave the home town supporters something to cheer about in the third inning. It was a festive atmosphere, with both sides of Murphy Field covered with balloon colors to match the uniforms of the competing clubs.
Whitman had an up-and-down regular season, but played well down the stretch. "We won our first few games, but lost a little focus until the end of the season," explained Whitman manager Kevin Kleminok, "Our kids really played well lately, and deserved to be here."
Things were very defensive minded in the opening innings, with great diving plays by Andrew Simpson of Whitman and Andy Azevedo of EMG earning outbursts of cheers of both sides of the sun-baked bleachers.
After the homer by Powers, the EMG offense turned on the jets in their final regular at bat. Two RBI hits by Dax Hogya and Powers led the way, and Krupinsky was followed by three pitchers who could not contain the outburst until the game was out of reach.
The big play in the rally came early, when Whitman opted to get an out at first base instead of making a risky throw to the plate to cut off the go-ahead runner. Otherwise, the hard-luck Krupinsky kept runners off the bags by centering his pitches around the strike zone. The Whitman infield helped Krupinsky by turning in eight plays on batted balls without a miscue.
Winning pitcher Ritchie Norman of EMG loaded the bases in the final inning, but struck out the final three outs to close out the game in style. Norman entered the game in the third inning and wound up striking out eight of the last 10 outs.