After the first inning of Wednesday’s Little League District 64 9-10 tournament game between Davis American and Woodland National, it looked like it was going to be The Owen Millward Show.
The local first baseman made nice defensive plays to get all three outs in the top of the first inning, then followed that up with a solo home run in the bottom of the frame. After that, however, someone switched the channel and it became The Jack Wright Show.
And Wright’s powerful pitching performance paced Woodland to a 5-1 victory, sending DALL to the brink of elimination.
After Millward’s blast — which went over the Davis Sport Shop sign in right-center field — Wright settled down to strike out nine of the next 11 DALL hitters, including seven in a row at one point. The only reason the stretch came to an end was WNLL coaches removed the burly right-hander because of pitch count with one out to go in the fourth. Fittingly, relief pitcher Cody Phillips ended the inning with another punchout.
“He throws hard, he’s around the plate and he’s got a nice breaking ball to go along with his fastball,” Davis coach Keith Millward said of Wright, who also hit a two-run single as part of a four-run fourth inning. “We just got outplayed and outpitched (Wednesday) and a lot of the credit goes to them.”
Before that fourth-inning outburst the two teams were locked in a tight, defensive battle.
Backed with the 1-0 lead, American starter Grafton Shorts allowed just one unearned run before giving way to Matthew Young in the third.
Young pitched well, shutting Woodland down for three of his four innings on the hill, and got some help from his defense. On one third-inning play, Shorts, now at shortstop, moved quickly to cut off a ball up the middle, stepped on second, then threw to first for a double play.
In the fourth, with four runs already in and WNLL threatening to break it wide open, Davis catcher Joby Anthony made a diving tag to keep a runner from scoring.
The strong defense continued in the top of the fifth, when DALL third baseman Ryan Jaramillo caught a screaming line drive, then doubled the runner off at first before Shorts finished the inning with a nice play on a slow rolling ground ball.
Tristan Wollrich’s catch on a sixth-inning liner to right helped keep the sheet clean in that frame.
But Davis just didn’t get enough going against Wright and Phillips as Millward’s blast and Shorts’ fourth-inning double were the only local hits.
“What I told my guys is, if you are going to have an off day with the bats, you have to be perfect defensively and we were certainly good early in the game,” coach Millward said.
Now, DALL is back on the field Thursday (7 p.m.) for an elimination game against Vacaville Central. The winner of that contest will face Woodland National for the tournament title.
“We know we are a good team and our kids believe they can win, so we will see what happens (Thursday),” Millward said.
— Reach Chris Saur at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8049.