Leghorns ready for State American Legion Tournament

The Leghorns punched their ticket to the state affair by beating the Yuba-Sutter Stripers 6-4.|

The Petaluma Leghorns baseball team is on its way to the State American Legion Tournament to be played Friday through Tuesday at Pete Biden Field at Fresno State University.

The Leghorns open the tournament Friday at 2 p.m. against the Bay Area Bombers from Concord. There are eight teams, each an Area champion or runner-up in the double-elimination tournament. At stake is a spot in the Regional Tournament.

Leghorn coach Spencer Finkbohner is anxious for his players have a chance at the State Tournament fun which includes a festive dinner and other special events.

“It will be a great experience for our guys,” said Finkbohner. “They really treat you like royalty and we will face some great players, some with D-1 experience.”

In other first-round games, Woodrow Wilson High School from Los Angeles plays Hoover High School, El Segundo faces Patrick Henry from San Diego and the Clovis Nighhawks take on the Fairfield Expos.

The Leghorns punched their ticket to the state affair by beating the Yuba Sutter Stripers 6-4 Sunday afternoon at Laurel Creek Park in Fairfield.

The win also put the Leghorns into the Area Tournament championship game at Laurel Creek Monday evening against the tournament host Fairfield Expos. Both teams playing for the title advanced to state.

In an exciting championship game, the Expos held off the Leghorns 6-5 in a nine-inning battle. The loss sent the Petaluma team to State with a 25-5 record.

Petaluma had its hands full in the crucial semifinal game that determined if it played on or ended its season.

Like each day during the week-long Area Tournament, the game was played on an afternoon hot enough a grill wasn’t needed to fry concession hamburgers,

What it finally boiled down to was Petaluma’s ability to answer a four-run Stripers’ inning with a matching four-spot rally of its own in the fifth inning.

Leghorn pitchers Suarez and Evan Johnson, both from Santa Rosa Junior College, weren’t overpowering, but they got the job done.

Suarez, throwing mostly fast balls, pitched two strong innings. After a rocky third allowed Yuba Sutter to take a 4-1 lead, Johnson came on, mixing his pitches to keep the Stripers at bay for the rest of the game, striking out six over the final four frames.

Johnson also scored a vital run for the Leghorns in the opening inning, starting their offense with a leadoff walk and scoring on shortstop Caze Derammelaere’s single to left field. Derammelaere, a Rancho Cotate graduate, had two hits on the day and made several strong plays defensively.

Yuba Sutter made a trip to Fresno seem unlikely for the Leghorns when it erupted for four runs in the third. The Petalumans hurt themselves with two walks and an infield error during the uprising. Key hit for the Stripers was a two-run single by Bryson Reif.

The Leghorns failed to respond immediately, but they did respond in the fifth with a parade of hits. Petaluma High grad and current SRJC player Garret Lewis zinged a single into left field and there followed consecutive doubles in various directions by Derammelaere, Mason Cox (Casa Grande) and Wesley Allen (Maria Carrillo). Rancho Cotate’s Nate O’Lear added a sacrifice fly, and before the merry-go-round stopped spinning Petaluma had a 5-4 lead.

A badly need insurance run scored on a Lewis double and a Cox single in the sixth.

Strong pitching by Johnson made the two-run lead stand good with four strikeouts over the final two innings.

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