Steven J Lafranchi & Associates rallied in the late innings to defeat Unique Insurance, 5-1, to claim the title in the 12th annual City Little League Baseball Tournament on Friday night under the lights at Lucchesi Park.
The National League regular-season winners broke open a 1-1 game with two runs in each of the final two frames to hold off Unique, representing the host American League.
The post-season city tournament began with all teams from the three Petaluma Leagues as entries with a clean slate following the regular campaign.
SJLA held a previous win over Unique in the tournament preliminary round, but was pushed to the limit in this one featuring a pitching duel between eventual winner Ben Diaz and Jacob Trujillo of Unique. Both pitchers turned in strong efforts as the game headed into the top of fifth with the score tied.
Unique plated the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning by bunching three hits off Diaz, highlighted by a run-scoring double down the right-field line off the bat of Kyle Spiller. Diaz got out of further trouble by striking out two consecutive batters to get out of a bases-loaded jam.
SJLA reached Trujillo in the fourth inning after Diaz doubled up the middle and stole third base. The theft proved costly for Unique when a wild pitch allowed the tying run to cross the plate.
The tie was finally snapped in the top of the fifth inning when SJLA shortstop Colin Landry got into one and lifted the only home run of the game over the fence in right-center field. The Landry blast proved to be the eventual game winner.
An insurance run was added on a run-scoring double by Gus Acuna later in the same frame.
Trujillo had to leave the game after throwing 4⅔ effective frames.
SJLA broke the game open in its final at bat, plating two runs in the top of the sixth inning. Landry struck again with a two-run single following a single to left field by Finn Flannery.
Diaz got stronger on the bump for SJLA as the game went on, as the lanky right-hander struck out 12 batters before he reached the 85-pitch mark with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Diaz was solid with the control of his fastball, and he mixed in a bender late the count in picking up the victory. He walked only two batters.
Jack Pezzolo finished the game for SJLA by striking out the final batter.
Unique threatened in almost every early inning, and the Americans finished with seven hits, including two by Spiller. Most of the hits were to the opposite field, but were all well struck.
A key play came in the first inning when Joey Mercado of Unique drove a Diaz pitch into deep right field, where it was picked off the fence on a nice play by Robbie Cuneo. A quick throw to second base on the play doubled off the base runner and prevented any scoring.
Medals were presented to the winning SJLA team and the runner-up Unique squad following the game. SJLA earned its way into the finals by beating Roland Insurance from the Petaluma Valley League while Unique Insurance defeated Athletic Edge of the American League.