TRACY — With limited pitching available, Northgate was swimming upstream in the championship game of the Little League District 67 Juniors All-Star Tournament against Spreckels Park on Friday, needing a win to force a winner-take-all game Saturday morning.
And that did not happen.
Northgate ran out of pitching in the fourth inning, walking five and giving up three hits to yield nine runs and give Spreckels Park the championship banner with a 16-1 score at Monticello School. It’s the fourth time in as many games that Spreckels gave up just one run.
“This is very rewarding,” Spreckels Park coach Jeff Morrow said. “We got beat pretty handily last year in majors by Northgate and to come back beat a good team like this means a lot.
“And in a year when the godfather of Spreckels Park — Kevin O’Neill — lost his wife to cancer, we were able to play for him. Kevin O’Neill, this one is for you.”
With the Northgate pitching floundering, Spreckels Park pitcher Niko Reitz was on fire, sprinkling three hits and striking out three with two walks.
Northgate got its lone run and two of its three hits in the first inning. Ace Avelar singled to start the game, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by A.J. Vasquez. Nick Ridgewell followed with a triple, and that was the last hit until Brandon Pine doubled in the third inning.
Reitz helped carry the load at the plate as well. Batting third, he went 2 for 3 with three RBI, a double, two runs and a walk. In the first inning he plated Xavier Palacios (two RBI) on a groundout and in the second he belted a two-RBI double to score Troy Morrow (RBI two runs) and Kevin Rosenblum Jr.
Hunter Donham (2 for 2, two RBI, two runs, two walks) ended the game via the 15-run mercy rule with a two-RBI single, scoring Reitz and Lucas Stackpole (double, two runs). Tanner Davidson added a two-RBI single and scored a run in the fourth.
Northgate had trouble finding the strike zone throughout, walking six and hitting two before the fateful fourth inning.
“It’s real tough to come through the loser’s bracket,” Northgate coach Joe Avelar said. “But I had a great group of kids and they didn’t give up. They fought it out. We just didn’t have enough pitching. Sometimes that happens and when you play a quality group like Spreckels it’s hard to beat them without your best.
“They were able to stay in the top of the bracket so they had a couple of days off and were able to rest some pitchers. We were banged up as well but we fought with heart. We have a lot of young kids who are going to be back here next year so it’s good to give them the opportunity here.”
Spreckels Park moves on to the Section 6 tournament next Saturday at Pedretti Park in Turlock at 4 p.m.