It wasn't easy, but the Petaluma Valley Little League Majors team (11-12-year-olds) remained undefeated and moved into the winners' bracket of the District 35 Tournament Tuesday night, rallying in the seventh inning for a 7-5 victory over the Rincon Valley National League in a battle of unbeatens.
Petaluma Valley will play Santa Rosa American Thursday at 11 a.m. on the Valley home diamond at Murphy Field.
Petaluma Valley, playing the part of visitors at Murphy Tuesday night, rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning, and held on behind the clutch pitching of Cameron Downing as Rincon Valley attempted to make a comeback in the bottom of the extra inning.
Cole Shimek and Jack Gallagher started the winning rally with walks. Two outs later, Chance Torri rolled a single through the left side of the infield and Dominic Green bounced a ground rule double over the center field fence to drive in two more runs.
Trailing, 7-4, with only one at bat left, Rincon Valley stayed tough, getting a run on hits by Logan Freeman and Peter Brede before Downing struck out three straight to end the long game.
The ending overshadowed a well-played six-inning regulation game that featured long drives, clutch pitching and solid defense.
Petaluma Valley opened as if it wanted to end things early.
The game was only one batter old when Petaluma's Ethan Rapoport lasered a shot over the center field fence for a home run.
Five of the six following Valley batters reached base with Shimek, Andrew Simpson and Connor Klemenok all driving in runs to put the Petalumans in front, 4-0.
Valley starting pitcher JHe Lampe breezed through the first two innings before Logan Freeman came off the Rincon Valley bench to shoot a home run over the center field fence. An inning later, Nathan Capurro towered a fly well over the left-center field fence and it was a 4-2 game.
Rincon Valley made it three homers in as many innings when Peter Brede slugged a two-run shot to center in the fifth inning to tie the game at 4-4.
That was the way things remained until the Valley finally rallied in the seventh.
Downing pitched three strong innings for the Valley, striking out six, including three to close things out in the seventh inning.
Defensive play of the game was a running back-to-the-infield grab of a soft line drive by Valley second baseman Klemenok in the third inning.
The win was the third straight for the Valley, an earlier 18-0 winner over Mark West and 12-1 victor over Cloverdale.
The Petaluma American League started the tournament in impressive fashion stopping Sebastopol, 7-4.
Tony Giono and Joey Loveless both cleared the fence with home run bombs to highlight the win. Loveless settled down after a rocky first inning to pitch four strong innings for the Americans. He gave up three runs on three hits, walking just one.
The Americans backed their pitchers with some strong defense, with Nate Busse in left field and Giono in center both making outstanding catches.
Sebastopol swiped a run on a double steal in the top of the first inning, but the Americans came right back in the bottom of the frame, scoring three runs on a lead-off single by Broc Burleson followed by five walks and a succession of wild pitches.