And now now there are two.
The Petaluma American Little League’s 10-year-old All Stars grimly held off Pacifica, 3-2, Thursday in a tense final inning to eliminate the third place finisher in the Northern California Championship Tournament in Larkspur.
Petaluma will return to Joe Wagner Field this evening to take on undefeated Tri-City in a rematch of a one-run game won by the Rocklin club earlier in the tournament. Petaluma must win back-to-back games to claim the title in the championship tourney that began with seven section winners.
The close win over a solid Pacific team was never comfortable, even though starting pitcher Wyatt Abramson belted a two-run big fly in the first inning to give the Americans an early advantage.
Abramson backed up his plate work with an outstanding performance on the bump, and his play not escape the attention of Petaluma Manager Blaine Clemmens.
“They say that big games bring out the best in good players, and it happened today. Wyatt did it all on the mound and at bat. I think that he is the story in this one,” the manager said.
While Abramson had a solid game, he got strong support from catcher Jack Larson who cleaned up the few errant pitches headed for the screen. It was his second consecutive stellar effort behind the plate.
The two-run advantage held up until an error and double combined to help cut the American advantage in half. Dillan Utel of Pacifica did the damage with a no-doubt two-base hit to set up runners at second and third with no outs. A ground ball out up the middle knocked in the run, but there is more to the story.
The soft ground ball past the mound was going to knock in the run in any case. American shortstop Jordan Giacomini made the only play he could by bare handing the ball and gunning it to first in a bang-bang play for a close out. It was one of the best plays in a game filled with some solid leather flashed by both teams.
Evan Smith, the next Pacifica hitter, scorched the next pitch from reliefer Kalen Clemmens, and it was headed for right field which could have tied the game. It didn’t happen because American second baseman Jack Hu made another sparkling catch for Petaluma by completely laying out as Utel had to scramble to get back to third. A ground ball to Abramson at third ended the threat and Petaluma fans could settle back into a normal breathing pattern.
Giacomini battled back from a couple of poor at bats earlier in the game to make complete amends at the plate. He stroked a line drive in the air down the left field line that appeared headed for foul territory, but it bounced inside the line, and he hustled it into a double.
Three walks then forced in Giacomini with what turned out to be the winning run. The crucial walk to a patient Jeffery Rice did the damage.
“We saw that Jordan smile again,” grinned Clemmens when describing the hit.
A double by the left-hand swinging J.T. Snead got the top of the sixth off and winging for Pacifica. American relievers Kalen Clemmens and Tagen Camilleri combined to get Petaluma out of the mess in the final frame, even though a run scored on a ground ball back to the mound.