Fourth of July came early this year.
At least it seemed that way on Friday with all the fireworks in Davis American’s narrow, 6-5 victory over Vacaville Central. And a walk-off RBI in the bottom of the sixth from DALL’s Jack Carsel was the grand finale to the drama-filled Little League District 64 10-11 All-Star tournament game at Camarena Park in Woodland.
Earlier in the day, Davis National was eliminated by Vacaville American.
But the late game was a familiar show for American head coach Jessie Catacutan, as his squad had a nearly identical finish against the same VCLL squad in last year’s D64 9-10 tournament. In that matchup, it was Mikey Finerty whose single in the sixth inning won a 5-4 contest for DALL.
“It was like déjà vu for me,” Catacutan said. “But it’s actually good for the kids to go through something like that, rather than winning by a huge margin. It’s only going to make them stronger.”
The victory earns the locals a berth in Monday’s tournament finals (7 p.m. at the same venue). And by coming through the winners’ bracket they have two chances to win one game and defend the title they won at last year’s 9-10 tournament.
DALL has the weekend to recover from three consecutive days of play, which saw the squad mercy-rule prior opponents (17-0 over Dixon and 14-1 against Davis National).
Friday’s contest, however, was much less decisive. Vacaville came prepared, with its sluggers making contact almost every at-bat, but the Davis defense was no slouch either.
This was apparent as early as the top of the first inning, when VCLL’s Matt Polen launched a shot to center fielder Kooper Kijanka with a runner on second, only to have Kijanka fire it to third baseman Nate Barclift for the out.
Locals Carsel, Josh Catacutan and Ethan Ramos also made some highlight reel-worthy plays in the four innings that Finerty — who gave up only two hits and two walks — was on the mound.
“We played some really good defense in those first few innings,” Catacutan said. “Vacaville is a good-hitting team, but our defense made it hard for them.”
Meanwhile, Catacutan, Finerty, Ramos and Iain Smith had back-to-back hits in the bottom of the third to put DALL up 5-0.
But Vacaville found holes and exploited them in the top of the sixth, when one batter was hit by pitch and another walked to set up a deficit-erasing inning for VCLL.
A duo of Vacaville batters, Andrew Boele and Colby Conner, picked up hits to drive in the runs. Then, Bradly Morin and Chase Dombrowski tallied doubles for a combined three RBIs, tying it at 5-5.
Dombrowski was subsequently tagged out on an attempt to cross the plate when Christian Panday knocked a two-out blast to the outfield, drawing a collective sigh of relief from Davis fans.
With DALL back on offense in the bottom half of that final inning, Kijanka worked a walk and Cade Sanders moved him to second with a shallow fly to left field.
Next, Carsel, the No. 9 hitter in the Davis lineup, smacked the ball up the middle and Kijanka sped home to score the winning run. As the crowd erupted in cheers, teammates rushed out of the dugout to mob Carsel after he rounded first.
It was a different result in the other Davis vs. Vacaville matchup on Friday, with VALL topping the local National squad, 13-3.
After Vacaville American built a lead through the first five innings of the contest, Davis National leadoff hitter Giacomo Sorrentino looked to turn things around with a base hit to start off the top of the sixth.
He got around to third on an error and a passed ball and, when Luke Dugger grounded into a fielder’s choice, Sorrentino scored to make it a more hopeful 11-3 game.
Unfortunately, his would be the last run of the night for the locals, who can still cite beating Dixon — a team that made it to last year’s 9-10 division championship game — in a 13-3 blowout during the tournament’s first round.
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett