VACAVILLE — Soccer has no idea what a “friendly” really is.
The kids of the Davis’ American and National Junior teams know. These squads played against each other twice in this week’s pressure-packed Little League District 64 postseason tourney. You should have heard the chatter …
“Nice hit, Connor,” came praise from the dugout after DNLL slugger Connor Bunfill crushed a double to the right-field fence. That comment came from the American dugout.
Later, when American catcher Matt Vinh took a foul ball off the mask, a player yelled to the backstop, “You’re OK, buddy. Take a minute.” A player from the National dugout.
Knowing that the players on these two teams are, for the most part, fast friends, classmates and soon-to-be sports colleagues at Davis High, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this kind of encouragement peppered such an important game.
Oh, that’s right … What was the final score of Saturday’s elimination game at Keating Park? On this baked potato of a night, the Nationals sent DALL packing, 15-2.
But with handshakes and high-fives all around afterward — and parents aplenty taking pictures of their kids, lined up in blue-red-blue-red alternate uniform fashion — the contest was a textbook study in what sports should be.
So after Davis played Davis, what did the coaches take away from the experience?
“It would have a whole lot more meaning if we were playing for the championship,” said National manager Kevin Bell, flashing a broad smile. “But it didn’t work out that way … regardless, it’s a friendly game, everyone knows each other. Just look …”
Bell surveyed the infield scene. Opposing players chatting, congratulations being exchanged and lots and lots of pictures still being taken, long after the final pitch was thrown.
“We have a wonderful group of kids and families,” DALL manager Dom Costa said. “Other than not winning, it couldn’t have been any better.
“Playing another Davis team? It’s like playing your brother. It’s exciting, you want to beat ‘em, but in the end, you’re happy for them.”
Saturday’s play started at 6 p.m. as the Americans had to fight for their lives in the continuation of a Friday game with Vacaville American. The two were tied at 13-13 after 6 2/3 innings when they ran out of light.
With runners at first and third and two down in the bottom of the seventh for Davis, that previous night’s game resumed.
The Davisites pulled out a 16-15, nine-inning win to earn the honor of playing another seven frames in almost triple-digit heat.
The season finale for the local eastsiders didn’t go as well.
After a scoreless first, Davis National broke through for four runs in the second inning.
Tanner Olney’s bases-loaded walk, a Bunfill sacrifice fly, a Ryan Bell groundout and a wild pitch accounted for the runs.
The Americans scratched out a three-inning tally when Ryan Holgate’s grounder plated Rogrik Davis (who had walked).
In the fourth, DNLL broke out the big bats — Bunfill’s two-run double and Bell’s 360-foot two-bagger to center made things 7-1.
Meanwhile, National hurler Trevor Hewitt was in command.
Over 5 2/3 innings, Hewitt allowed one run, only two hits and fanned nine. He walked two batters. Hewitt reached a Little League pitch-count maximum and was replaced by Kevin Blanc.
The Nationals scored eight times in the final three innings to break things wide open.
A Manuel Costa infield hit, Dylan Schmidt double and Sebastian Costa grounder gave the Americans their final score in the seventh.
“Our kids came into this game living our philosophy: best effort, play hard and have fun,” Bell said. “This was the first time we got to play with a lead. All the teams in this tournament, including (Davis American) are tough.”
The Nationals play Sunday at 7 p.m. at Keating.
Notes: On Friday, Bell pitched a complete-game 5-4 victory over Vacaville National. Bell fanned 10 and had five three-up, three-down innings. Only one of the runs allowed was earned. He was also 2-for-4 at the plate. Sebastian Anaya’s walk-off single was the difference. Gabe Gutierrez, Hewitt and Jacob Wieking added two hits each. … In the two-day game against VALL, the Americans rallied to score eight times in the bottom of the seventh. Mason Scheiber’s single with two outs eventually tied the game and it was Scheiber who scored the winning run on a wild pitch — 24 hours after the game started. … Last Tuesday the two Davis teams of 13- and 14-year-old players opened the District 64 tournament with National rallying for a 6-2 nod.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.