TRACY — It didn’t take Lucas Garcia long to shake off the nerves and leave his mark.
He rejoined the Northgate Little League 11-12-year-old all-star team for Sunday’s District 67 Tournament championship game against crosstown rival Spreckels Park after spending a week with his travel-ball club in New York for the National Cooperstown Tournament of Champions.
Garcia clubbed a three-run homer to cap the team’s five-run second and later logged 2 1/3 innings of relief for the save to help Northgate win its first-ever major-division all-star banner in four tries, 11-5, at Jefferson School.
“I was nervous and I thought I was going to play bad today, but once I hit that home run I was ready to play,” said Garcia who finished 1 for 3 with three runs while fanning seven batters from the hill.
“We’re all friends and stuff, so I knew they weren’t going to get down on me for not being here. It was cool to be able to do this with them.”
Garcia’s return just made a very deep team that much deeper for the Section 3 Tournament that starts Saturday in San Lorenzo against Hillsborough.
“He just gives us another option,” Northgate manager Larry Lucchetti said of Garcia. “You can put him anywhere out there, you can bat him wherever you want and he’ll perform.”
Not to be outdone, Northgate’s starting pitcher, Ian Rodriguez, was just as effective in the batter’s box and on the pitcher’s mound.
Rodriguez was relieved after 3 2/3 innings for reaching his pitch count, but he left with eight strikeouts and a 6-3 lead. Rodriguez kept himself in line for the win with a two-run homer to left in the fourth, finishing 2 for 3 with two runs, a double and four RBIs.
“I felt a lot better knowing that we had some (runs) on the board,” Rodriguez said. “It felt good (to hit the home run), because I’ve been wanting one the whole tournament.”
Rodriguez and Garcia combined for a six-hitter, and all five runs scored on them were unearned, as the defense committed six errors behind them.
Rodriguez was Northgate’s only player to have more than one hit, though the team finished with nine knocks. Trevor Huntoon came off the bench in the fourth to deliver a key no-out single to right to plate the first of three runs in the frame.
“Everybody has hit for us in this tournament,” Lucchetti said.
Jacob Gallagher (3 for 3, BB, run, RBI) and Tyler Moss (2 for 3, two runs, HBP) did most of the damage for Spreckels Park, which valiantly battled its way through the consolation bracket to win five straight games in seven days after dropping a 13-11 heartbreaker to Northgate in the opener.
“How much more can you ask of a group of 12-year-olds?” Spreckels Park manager John Moss said. “I’m totally humbled by this experience, and it’s just fun for me to be a part of it.
“It’s sad that it has to come to an end, but Northgate has a great team. They played four games to our seven, and it’s hard to compete (under those circumstances) against a team that is that good.”
To reach Jonamar Jacinto, e-mail email@example.com, or call (209) 249-3538.