LATHROP — With ace pitcher Noah Calmes on his game and nursing a 6-0 lead, the Northgate Little League Dodgers appeared to be well on its way to an easy win in the District 67 Major League Tournament of Champions at Mossdale Park.
The Manteca Giants made them sweat it out on an already-sultry Friday afternoon.
The offense finally came alive, and they made big defensive plays after early struggles in both facets. Manteca roared back to force three extra innings only to fall short, 9-6.
Northgate took advantage of infield errors in the ninth to scratch across the final three runs of this thrilling winners-bracket semifinal. Relief pitcher Greg Adams ended it with his fifth strikeout, while Manteca left runners in scoring position.
Also on Friday, the Salida A’s defeated the Spreckels Park Orioles and will face off with the Giants in the consolation-bracket semifinal today. Northgate plays the winner in the title round on Sunday, with the “if” game set for Monday.
Calmes had a no-hitter through three innings and finished with nine strikeouts over 4 2/3. Adams (3 for 5, walk, two runs) highlighted the Dodgers’ early barrage with a two-run double down the third-base line in the fourth, and Brock Felt (2 for 5) knocked him in with his second single of the contest.
Zennon Garay ignited Manteca’s comeback. He beat out the throw for an infield single and the Giants’ first hit of the game with out one in the fourth. Garay scored on a fielding error, and Nate Moore drove in another run.
Manteca knotted it up with a four-run rally in the fifth, getting a two-run double from Moore (2 for 5, three RBIs) and game-tying RBI single from Maddox Melendez (2 for 4).
The Giants’ momentum was further strengthened by a big-time defensive play that ended the top half of the fifth. With one out and runners on the corners, center fielder Cade Gemmell caught a deep flyball from Kyle Vanarsdell and then threw out a runner at the plate to complete the double play.
Northgate had a chance to recapture the lead in the top of the sixth when Robbie Espinosa (2 for 5) doubled to right and Andrew Viri walked to load the bases. Gemmell, pitching in relief, came through with a strikeout to wriggle out of the jam.
Moore also keyed the Manteca defense late, snagging two line drives — including one he had to leap vertically to get — and a popup in shallow right field in the sixth and seventh innings.
The Giants’ magic wore off in the ninth. Brayden Glasgow led off with a walk, and Seth Baker reached on an error to put two on with no out. Calmes then reached on a two-out error as the base runners ahead of him scored, and he plated another insurance run on a wild pitch.
Angelo Cervantez and Moore drew back-to-back one-out walks in the bottom of the ninth for the Giants. Adams worked out of the jam by inducing a groundball to the mound and striking out the final batter.