The Petaluma American Little League’s drive for a Division champion came to an end on a diamond they never expected to visit last weekend.
Petaluma entered the finals of the Division Tournament unbeaten and just one win away from becoming just the third Petaluma team ever to reach the Western Regional championships in San Bernardino.
Things started to go wrong before a pitch was even thrown in the finals against Tri-City from Rocklin, a team Petaluma had beaten earlier in the tournament, 5-2.
As the teams were preparing for the finals in Redding, the contest was called off because of poor air quality caused by the Carr Fire that eventually resulted in devastation and evacuation of parts of Redding.
The game was rescheduled for Friday in Sutter, a drive of more than two hours for Petaluma, but only about 30 minutes for Tri-City.
Petaluma went into the game, played at the Sutter Little League field about 40 miles from Sacramento, undefeated in the Division Tournament.
Petaluma received a strong pitching effort from Wyatt Abramson but failed to back the hurler with clutch hitting, falling 4-3 for just its second loss in tournament play.
Tri-City gave Petaluma plenty of opportunity, putting 11 free runners on base with five walks, three hit batters and three errors. However, the Americans failed to capitalize, getting just three hits, all singles, by Abramson, Kalen Clemmens and Jordan Giacomini.
Twice, Petaluma loaded the bases, in the second and fifth innings, but failed to score, once having a runner thrown out at home trying to count on a wild pitch.
Petaluma did get two runs in the first inning on a walk, an infield single and a pair of wild pitches.
The big hurt for Petaluma came in the third inning, when a hit batter and a single off the fence set up a three-run Tri-City home run.
Tri-City scored an unearned run in the fourth inning for a 4-2 lead. Petaluma scored in the fifth on a walk and two infield errors, but that was all the Americans’ could muster despite their multitude of base runners.
The teams resumed the battle for the title and advancement to the Western Regional on Saturday night, with Tri-City winning a raggedly played emotional game, 7-0.
Tri-City pitcher Aiden Frost threw a no-hitter at the Americans, allowing just two base runners, one by being hit by a pitch and the other on a walk.
According to Petaluma American Little League officials, the heated contest featured contentious fan participation on the part of a large contingent of Rocklin rooters.
Petaluma batters Kalen Clemmens and J.T. Summers, both coaches’ sons, were hit by pitches six times and twice had near misses. He struck out 13.
The double loss ended an excellent All-Star season for the Americans, who won the District 35 championship and Section 1 championships before becoming one of only four teams in the state to play for a Divisional championship.
“It was a great season,” said Petaluma manager Blaine Clemmens. “It was just a tough way to go out.”
Members of the Petaluma team were Austin Steeves, Ethan Arellano, Jack Hu, Jack Larson, Jacob Untalan, Jeffrey Rice, Jordan Giacomini, J.T. Summers, Kalen Clemmens, Nicky Gonzalez-Dachev, Oscar Koene, Tegan Camilleri and Wyatt Abramson.