The 1967 Boston Red Sox were known as the “Cardiac Kids”. The ’67 Sox have nothing on the plucky team of Elk Grove Babe Ruth 13 to 15 All Stars. This team just started practicing on June 17 under manager Rich Hudson, a former high school and American Legion Coach. Rich Hudson is assisted by veteran coaches: Chris Allen, Chuck Arthur and Mike Hoss. The team was selected from Elk Grove Babe Ruth’s 10 teams by the league’s coaches and Coach Hudson. The District 7 best 2 out of 3 game playoff took place at Bartholomew Sports Park in Elk Grove against Woodland Babe Ruth All Stars for June 29, 30 and July 1.
The team is one of three Elk Grove Babe Ruth teams who qualified for the state tournament. The 13-year-old team started the tournament July 6 in Fairfield while the 14-year-old team started July 6 in Woodland.
Game one was a slugfest with the teams tied 7-7 after four and a half innings with Woodland up in the bottom of the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, Woodland surged to a nine-run lead after five (one short of the 10-run Mercy Rule). The potential 10th runner was tagged out at third on a throw from McNeill to Mason Koyama.
In the sixth inning, Elk Grove’s comeback started with one out walks to Isaiah LaCount, Zahid Munaf, and Dylan McNeill. Then Aiden Griffen had an RBI single followed by Brenden McAllister, who hit what should have been a sacrifice fly but was missed by the left fielder allowing two runs to score. 16-10 now. Mason Koyama walked to reload the bases and Calvin West was hit by a pitch. 16-11. Then a two RBI single by Jayce Nieves and walks by Josh Strom and LaCount made it 16-14.
Still down by two runs, Elk Grove turned to their catcher, Joey Avila, to shut the Woodland power machine down from the mound. Joey struck out the first batter but the clean up hitter sent a high fly ball to deep right field that Calvin West made a great catch on to stop a Woodland rally before it began. Avila struck out the fifth batter in the order. Still two runs down, Elk Grove went to work in the top of the last inning. Dylan McNeill started it with a double to center and Griffen followed with a double also, so it was a one-run lead. But then two straight outs followed by walks to Greg Allen and Calvin West, bases loaded. Nieves is up and is 3 for 4 at this point in the game. He hit a hard ground ball toward the hole at second but the Woodland second baseman fields it and tried to throw Nieves out at first to end the game.
The hurried throw got by the first baseman and the tying and go-ahead runs scored to cause the EG dugout to go wild.
Woodland still had the bottom of the seventh but Joey Avila wouldn’t allow them a chance. He struck out all three Woodland batters swinging.
The Elk Grove squad features some great players, including Danyelle “Dany” Vachon. What research was possible shows that Vachon is the first female ball player to make the EGBR 15- year-old all-stars. There have been other good female ball players in this league, which started in 1962 as the Elk Grove Boys Baseball League, but none who have played on this All-Star Team. Vachon started game one at first base. As a defensive substitute in game two, she made a play at first base that not only kept a wide throw from getting into the right field corner with runners on but managed, with a good stretch and pickup out of the dirt, to get the out. Coach Chuck Arthur described that play as “game saving.”
Elk Grove’s stirring victory in game one of the series set up game two with a chance to close out the series in game two.
If fans thought game one was tense, the second game was just as exciting.
Elk Grove got off to a one-run lead in the bottom of the first, on a walk to Munaf and two-out single to McAllister. Joey Avila’s double scored Munaf. McNeill started pitching and pitched three innings of no-hit no-run baseball. Meanwhile, in the second inning, Ryan Cooke singled and Jayce Nieves doubled to drive in the second run. In the fourth inning, Woodland scored three runs before McAllister came in to get the third out. Ryan Cooke started off the bottom of the fourth with a single, then with one out Calvin West and Eliasz Campos both singled to push in the tying run.
With two out, McNeill singled and Aiden Griffin doubled resulting in three more runs scoring. At 6-3, it looked pretty good, but the game would transform quickly.
Elk Grove gave up a run to Woodland before Avila was called in to pitch. With the bases loaded, Avila got the strike out for the first out.
Woodland went on to score 10 runs in that inning.
With timely hitting from Calvin West, Zahid Munaf, Aiden Griffen and a double by Mason Koyama, however, Elk Grove stormed back in the sixth with five runs.
Still, there was a 13-11 lead for Woodland going to the top of the seventh. Koyama continued to pitch and, with the help of Vachon’s defense noted above and another play on a hard grounder hit right at her, Woodland only managed one more run.
Ryan Cooke led off the bottom of the seventh for Elk Grove and hit a ball through the shortstop. Nieves followed with a high fly ball to center that dropped in for a hit. Then, with one out, Josh Strom delivered a pinch-hit double to right, scoring one more run.
After two outs, McNeill singled and suddenly it was a one run game 14-13 Woodland. Griffin supplied the tying run with a single that also sent McNeill to third base. With McAllister in the batter’s box, Griffen drew the pickoff throw and broke for second. By the time the first baseman makes the hurried throw home, Dylan McNeill slides in with series-winning run and was mobbed by his teammates pouring out of the dugout.
Elk Grove moved on to the State Tournament in Belmont, Calif. with a game July 6.
Elk Grove advanced to the semifinal of the tournament on July 9 against Bel-Mateo and lost 9-2, which put them in the loser’s bracket for a game on July 10. The winner of the loser’s bracket final went on to play the advancing team twice for a chance top lay in the Bakersfield regional later on this month. The results of the July 10 game plus the 13- and 14-year-olds will be published next week in the Elk Grove Citizen.
Fall ball information for 12- to 16-year-olds is also available on www.eghardball.com.