FAIRFIELD — Davis already knew the sting of seeing a lead slip away when it took the field for Thursday morning’s Junior Legion Area 1 tournament elimination game against the South Humboldt 76ers.
On Wednesday, the Blue Devils fell to the Napa Tribe in their opening game of the tourney despite leading by several runs down the stretch.
Unfortunately for Davis, Thursday’s game at the Fairfield Expos’ stadium followed a similar script.
Clinging to a two-run advantage in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, the locals watched as South Humboldt tied the contest on a two-run single, then won it on a sacrifice fly. The 11-10 defeat ended Davis’ bid for a spot in the state tournament.
“(There were) a lot of hits (Thursday). The ball was getting knocked around the yard a lot,” Devil head coach David Watts said afterward. “We put up a good number, 10, and that normally should do it. But they were a good-hitting team (and) they made a good comeback.”
The Blue Devils led by as many as six runs during the course of the game, but could never quite shake the 76ers, who finished the game with 14 hits.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Davis started to build its first sizable advantage. James Richardson scored on a wild pitch and Mason Shorts singled and came home on a double by Andrew Walker before a wild episode culminated in the locals tacking on another run.
With Walker on second and Alex Timmons on first, Gabe Gutierrez made contact with the ball. Timmons sprinted to second and then, because of a miscommunication, continued to third, which already was occupied by Walker. When the Humboldt defense moved to tag out Timmons, Walker suddenly took off and beat the ball home.
“The runner coming from second to third, I was going to send him (home). But the outfielder made a good play, charged the ball real nicely, and came up with it, so I held (the runner) late. And (Timmons) had seen me waving him on, so he came around,” Watts said. “So they both ended up right there. And once (Timmons) got into the run-down between second and third, I sent (Walker) home. Luckily, it was a high throw because he beat it out. I think they might have had him if the throw had been there.”
In the top of the fifth, the Devils continued their surge. Walker singled to bring Solomon Biers-Ariel across the plate and Timmons and Gutierrez each did the same to knock in Noah Riffle and Shorts, and Walker, respectively. The runs put Davis up 7-1 — but the advantage almost immediately evaporated.
South Humboldt notched four runs in the bottom of the inning, with two of them coming on a rocket of a triple that almost made it over the left-field fence.
Holding only a two-run lead, the locals went back to work. At the start of the sixth, Richardson drew a walk and Riffle and Shorts each singled to load the bases. Richardson then scored on a single by Walker and Riffle and Shorts made it home on a double to left by Timmons.
But once again, the 76ers responded, scoring thrice in the bottom of the frame to set the stage for the dramatic finish, which featured South Humboldt’s Cole Moody hitting a two-run single and then making his way to third and scoring the winning run on a fly ball by Cade McNamala.
The locals used four pitchers during the course of the game. Brendan Pohl started on the mound and made it into the fifth, notching one strikeout while surrendering only four runs. He was followed by Riffle, Jake Guerrero and Biers-Ariel. All three had their moments, but couldn’t find a way to stop the surging 76ers.
— Reach Will Bellamy at [email protected]