It is always darkest just before the dawn, and Max Gulart turned the darkness into light for the Manteca A’s on Saturday.
With the A’s having tallied five runs in the fifth inning to nearly eclipse a six-run deficit against the Tracy Yankees, Gulart took the hill for Manteca in the top of the sixth. The first Tracy batter reached on an error, but Gulart struck out the next three to set up final-inning heroics in a thrilling 13-12 win for the A’s in the championship game of the District 67 Minor Tournament of Champions on Saturday hosted by Spreckels Park Little League at Brock Elliott School.
Branden Molthen singled to start off the bottom of the sixth for Manteca and attempted to get to third when Noah Stum singled, but a pinpoint relay by Tracy got Molthen at third, with Stum advancing to second on the throw. Following a strikeout, Zachary Huffstutler lifted a can-of-corn fly ball to right field, but the right fielder came in too far and the ball sailed to the fence, leaving Huffstutler at second and plating Stum to tie the game.
The game appeared to be headed to extra innings when Matthew Murray grounded to second only for the second baseman to bobble the ball as Huffstutler was heading for third. The throw to first was off the mark and Huffstutler never broke stride, sprinting home before the wayward ball could be corralled and thrown home, giving Manteca the banner.
“When I saw the ball bobbled at second I went to third,” Huffstutler said. “And then the coach told me to go home.Being down by six runs with only six outs left was a strange position for the A’s as they finished the season with a perfect 26-0 record.
“I am so proud of this team,” Manteca coach Franklin Stephenson said. “We were down by six with two to play and then we played extra hard.
“We never gave up.”
Gulart had a monster bat, going 2 for 2 with a sacrifice fly, two triples and six RBI, including a bases-clearing triple in the fifth. Wentworth drew a walk for an RBI in the fifth – as did Chase Stephenson – and Wentworth was 2 for 2 with an RBI. Molthen (RBI), Huffstutler (RBI) and Strum were all 2 for 3.
Manteca Red Sox 4,
Spreckels Park Giants 3
With his Giants trailing by four runs going into the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday, Christian Cruz launched a three-run home run to come within a run, but Red Sox pitcher Nico Ilardi bore down for a strikeout to end the game on the next batter. The loss drops Spreckels Park to the consolation final of the Major TOC at Lincoln Park hosted by Manteca Little League tonight.
Manteca got its runs one or two at a time. In the third inning, Neth Stum walked and Karson Condit beat out a bunt down the first-base line, and when the throw to get Condit at first sailed down the right-field line Stum came around to score and Condit went to third. An infield single by Ilardi (2 for 2, 3B) plated Condit for a 2-0 lead.
In the fifth A.J. Kovacs made it 3-0 when he tripled and scored on a Briggs Alavezos fielder’s choice. The eventual deciding run came in the sixth when Kevin Thornberg singled and worked his way to third and came home on a passed ball. In the bottom of the sixth Colby Gatty singled for the Giants followed by a Louis Aquila single to set the table for Cruz’s crushing home run.
Tracy Nationals 15, Spreckels Park Sooners 3
The clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Sooners on Sunday. After winning three consolation games in four days, Spreckels Park was slow out of the gate in the championship game with the Tracy Nationals, falling behind 14-0 after two innings in the Junior TOC hosted by Weston Ranch Little League.
After taking the hill for the Sooners in the third trailing 14-0, Brock Willenbrink stopped the bleeding by allowing just two more hits and one more run until the game was stopped after five innings due to the mercy rule.
Spreckels Park was retired in order the first time but came alive in the fourth inning. Leadoff batter Kenny Wade singled, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and came home on a Slyder Blyth single. Willenbrink doubled and was knocked in on Craig Durao’s single, but Blyth and Durao were both called out at home on close plays, cutting the Sonners rally short.
In the bottom of the fifth, Erik Garcia led off with a walk and was advanced to third on Devin Culham’s single. Garcia scored on Wade’s sacrifice fly, and that was the end of the Spreckels Park attack.
Spreckels Park Sooners 9, Tracy Rays 8
The Sooners staved off elimination Saturday and claimed the consolation championship with a five-run seventh inning for the come-from-behind victory. Trailing 8-4 entering the bottom of the sixth, singles by Wade (2 for 4, RBI) and Willenbrink and a two-RBI double by Durao (2 for 4, double, four RBI) followed back-to-back walks to start the frame. Hunter Frisk (2 for 4, RBI), had the last hit of the inning for Spreckels Park to plate Durao for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.