Leghorns win American Legion State Tournament

“No one knows what makes this team special,” team manager Spencer Finkbohner said. “They stayed together and played as one. It was always next guy up.”|

For the third time in three years, the Petaluma Leghorns are the California State American Legion baseball champions.

The Leghorns had to work overtime in the sweltering heat of Fresno in the summer to threepeat and earn a spot in the American Region Tournament. After four straight wins, Petaluma went into the finals of the State Tournament needing just one win over the Clovis Nighthawks for the title and advancement.

The Leghorns didn’t get that win in an 8 a.m. morning game Tuesday, losing 5-2. That set up a winner-take-all battle with Petaluma scoring two runs in the top of the seventh inning and holding on for an 8-6 title-taking victory.

“No one knows what makes this team special,” team manager Spencer Finkbohner said. “They stayed together and played as one. It was always next guy up.”

Next guy up in the championship game was catcher Mason Cox who had three hits, including a double and drove home three runs. Shortstop Caze Derammelaere, a tournament-long standout, had two hits and drove home two runs. Lead-off hitter Evan Johnson had a hit, walked twice and scored three runs.

Jacob Greiner and Nick Andrews spilt pitching duties, with Greiner giving up four runs, three earned, on seven hits, but not walking a batter. Anderson pitched three innings, allowing two runs and he, too, did not walk a batter.

Petaluma scored two runs in the first inning, but trailed 4-2 after four. The Leghorns rallied for four runs in the top of the fifth and held a 6-4 lead before Clovis tied the game with two in the sixth. That set the Leghorns up for a game and tournament-winning two-run rally in the seventh.

That game was made necessary because Clovis pitcher C. O’Toole held Petaluma to just four hits and two runs in the morning game. Tony Suarez pitched well for Petaluma, scattering seven hits and yielding two runs with six strikeouts. He came within an out of pitching the entire game.

Petaluma’s four hits were by Derammelaere, Cox, Allen and Austin Steeves.

The Leghorns opened the tournament impressively with an 11-0 win over the Bay Area Bombers and a 9-1 victory over Long Beach.

In what, for the Leghorns, would stand as the miracle game of the tournament, they rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 5-4 win over El Segundo.

El Segundo apparently had the game won with a 4-1 lead after scoring two runs in the top of the seventh inning before Petaluma fought back with its four-run explosion in its last chance.

Petaluma had eight hits in the game with Derammelaere collecting three and Allen adding two.

Steeves pitched 6 2/3 innings with Williams getting two outs for the Leghorns.

Petaluma moved into its games against Clovis with a 7-4 win over the Fairfield Expos, the team that won the Area Tournament with the Leghorns second a week earlier.

Petaluma jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings against Fairfield and held on behind the pitching of Evan Johnson, a Casa Grande graduate and Santa Rosa Junior College player. He also had two hits. Steeves and Cox contributed to the Leghorn attack, with Cox collecting three hits and Steeves two.

Petaluma now returns to Laurel Park in Fairfield, site of the Area Tournament, to play in the West Region Tournament. The winner of that tournament is off to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.

The Leghorns open Region play on Wednesday, Aug. 3 against Nevada in a 4 p.m. game.

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