TRACY — Jordan Eakes got Northgate Little League’s major all-stars going by crushing a home run to straightaway center off the first pitch delivered by Tracy American ace Conner Johnson in the third inning.
But that was just the first step of a steep climb that Northgate had to overcome after falling into a 9-0 hole.
Eakes ended up 2 for 3 with three RBIs and two runs to lead Northgate, which was sent to the consolation bracket of the District 67 Tournament via a 12-6 loss at Jefferson School.
Northgate will battle for its survival in the double-elimination tournament today against Weston Ranch at 5 p.m., while Tracy American takes on rival Tracy National in the winner’s-bracket semifinal.
Northgate was limited to just the two hits recorded by Eakes.
Tracy American’s Harrison Difuntorum was terrific in three innings of relief, yielding two unearned runs on one hit and a walk.
Johnson lost command of his pitches after cruising for two innings. He fanned five of the first six batters he faced and finished with eight strikeouts in three-plus innings of work.
Northgate closed to within four, 9-5, after taking advantage of three walks that led to four runs in the fourth but could get no closer.
Northgate’s pitchers were hurt by untimely errors during Tracy American’s early assault.
Starter Devin Abrew threw 62 pitches in 2 2/3 innings and struck out five. Only two of the seven runs he gave up were earned. In an effort to save pitching for future use, Northgate had seven different players take the mound.
Tracy American broke it open with six runs in the third, with successive RBI base hits coming from Steven Blackwell, Cody Bolton ( 2 for 2, two runs, triple), Fred Gerstenberger (2 for 2, two runs, two RBIs) and Ricky Staas (2 for 3).
Clean-up batter Mason Stevenson accounted for three of Tracy American’s 13 hits, including a solo homer to lead off the sixth. Stevenson was 3 for 4 with three runs, and Ronaldo Tijero finished 2 for 4.
Manteca 9, Salida 8
Slowly but surely, Salida mounted a 6-0 lead and appeared on its way to advancing to the consolation-bracket’s quarterfinal round.
Manteca, however, struck quickly in the bottom of the fourth and tied it up with a six-run rally. In the fifth, Manteca took the lead for good, 9-6, and held off a sixth-inning charge to secure the victory.
Jacob Peterson and Cameron Luckey (two RBIs) each went 2 for 4 for Manteca. Tyler Graves, Mitch Balmut and Tyler Miloslavich each contributed a double and a run.
Manteca takes on the Northgate-Weston Ranch winner Saturday at 9 a.m.