PETALUMA — It was “uncharacteristic” of his team, said Davis American 9-10 All-Star coach Keith Millward.
After an exciting run that saw the local Little Leaguers win the District 64 championship last month, on Saturday, DALL coughed up two big innings and lost to Ross Valley of San Rafael, 11-1, at Lucchesi Park.
Almost 220 fans watched the Section 1 opener on a picture-perfect baseball day, during which a breeze from the south kept temperatures in the low 70s. Unfortunately for Davis backers, this one was decided by the 10-run mercy rule when Ross Valley scored five times in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“We’ve been making the plays for the most part,” said Millward, harkening back to the squad’s D64 title — ending a tournament in which Davis American scored no more than seven runs and had to win three consecutive elimination games.
“(Saturday), there were a couple of close calls early that didn’t go our way … then some key plays that weren’t made. So it was a culmination of things.”
But Millward said his guys are looking forward to Sunday’s 2 p.m. matchup with North Oakland, a 15-9 loser to Sonoma in the early Saturday game.
On Saturday, DALL looked like it would break through early — loading the bases with only one out in the top of the first. But winning pitcher Miles McGrath got a strikeout and a ground ball to first to end the threat.
From there, Ross Valley owned the afternoon …
The first five RVLL hitters reached. A couple of errors, three pitches to the backstop and RBI singles from Jamie Emerson and Grant Stoll made things 6-0 with two on and only one out.
But a nice Owen Millward-to-Joby Antony fielder’s choice cut a Valley runner down at the plate and a special diving snag by now-shortstop Matthew Young wound up being a 6-3 putout of the speedy McGrath.
Young was the Davis starting pitcher, before trading positions with reliever Grafton Shorts.
Shorts went 1 2/3 innings, holding Ross Valley scoreless as DALL stuck its nose back in the game with its only run in the third.
Shorts reached on a fielder’s choice and eventually scored when McGrath threw three straight offerings past his catcher.
But that was that for Davis, which managed only two hits off McGrath and closer Cody Perry. McGrath allowed a double to Millward and an infield single to Shorts in the first. From there, he walked three while fanning seven in 3 2/3 innings.
DALL right-hander Bryce Barker pitched 1 2/3 frames late in the game — and deserved a better fate than the baseball gods provided.
Barker hurled a scoreless third — thanks, in part, to a nice diving catch in short right by Young, who had moved to second base. However, Barker then was touched for four runs (only one earned) in the final inning as the third local error and two scratch hits set up an RV game-ending single by Charlie Walsh (off reliever Millward).
Along the way, third baseman Ryan Jaramillo had to leave the contest for two innings because a cap came off his tooth. The locals also were playing without Ethan Trinidad and Zane Bertero “because of a family vacation and a camp,” according to manager Millward. Both are expected back for Sunday’s game.
Should Davis take North Oakland out, it will meet the loser of Sunday’s Sonoma-Petaluma National standoff on Monday at 5:30 p.m. The Sonoma-Petaluma game is set for 11 a.m.
Ross Valley will get the winner of that game on Monday.
If DALL loses just once more, the postseason ends.
“One day at a time,” Millward said afterward. “We’re going to need contributions from the whole pitching staff (two of Saturday’s pitchers are ineligible Sunday). So everybody’s going to need to throw.
“We can’t look at trying to win five games. We have to look at it in terms of trying to win (Sunday) and living to fight another day.”
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.