By Brett Andersen
Joby Antony launched a tiebreaking three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to propel the Davis American 9-10 All-Stars to the District 64 Championship on Saturday night at the Davis Little League Complex.
Antony’s opposite-field round-tripper gave Davis a 5-2 comeback win over Woodland National — and pushed DALL through to the section tournament, set to begin July 12 in Petaluma.
The victory came a night after a matchup between these same two teams was won by the locals, who battled through the loser’s bracket. They played six games in the past seven days including Saturday’s winner-take-all affair.
Comebacks and close games were a theme throughout DALL’s championship run so it was fitting that the title tilt was no exception.
“The whole tournament has been like that for us, they’ve been close and we’ve had to come from behind on several occasions,” American manager Keith Millward said after delivering a congratulatory postgame message to his team. “I think it’s nice, once you’ve done that successfully you start to believe you can do it, and one of the keys in the tournament for our kids was not overreacting when something goes wrong for us and just continuing to battle.”
On Saturday, DALL fell behind immediately as Woodland took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, both runs scoring with two outs.
Davis starting pitcher Owen Millward settled down after that, at one point setting down 11 in a row as he battled fellow ace Jack Wright of WNLL. The Woodland All-Star pitched 4 1/3 innings, striking out 11, while allowing only one hit.
“He’s special,” coach Millward said of Wright, who had nine strikeouts when his team beat the locals earlier in the tournament.
But, Millward added, his own pitching wasn’t too shabby:
“We didn’t feel we had anyone that’s quite the dominant arm that Wright is, but we’re very solid and very deep. We had four kids available (Saturday) and were going to send Owen out there and see what he could give us and we were very pleased.”
It wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth, when Wright reached his Little League imposed 75-pitch limit, that the Davis bats were able to break through. DALL took advantage of Wright’s departure to immediately rally for all five of its runs, each tally coming with two outs.
“When we came back, our guys in the lineup were starting to hit and get on base,” Antony explained. “That’s how we tied and ended up winning.”
In the decisive frame, Jason Inouye and Matthew Young reached ahead of Millward, who singled to score Inouye and cut the WNLL lead to 2-1. Grafton Shorts followed with a single to left to score Young, who eluded the tag of the WNLL catcher after the throw beat him home.
With the score now tied, Antony launched his game-winning home run to right-center and ignited a raucous celebration with his teammates at home plate. The blast had just enough distance, hitting the top of the fence before bouncing over as the closest umpire singled for a home run.
“I was thinking it was to the fence, I wasn’t thinking it was out,” Antony said. “I had a lot of power on it, and it just went over.”
WNLL mounted one final rally in the top of the sixth, knocking Millward from the mound as he, too, reached his pitch-count limit. Young came in from his catcher’s position, entering with the bases loaded and two outs.
And he calmly induced a game-ending groundout that set off a victory celebration in front of the Davis dugout.