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Back-to-Back: Westside Wins District-44 Title for 2nd-Straight Season

The Westside All Stars are once again District-44 Champions, and the party in Santa Clara is just getting started. For the second straight season, the 12-and-under team will now be moving onto the Section-5 tournament. After beating rival Briarwood on the July 4th holiday by a 5-3 final, Westside cruised Saturday to a 11-2 blowout victory over Campbell in the District-44 Championship.

“A lot of these kids have played together on previous All Star teams at younger levels, but they’ve never won a banner. I told them to set a high goal at the beginning of this tournament and they came out and did it,” remarked Westside Manager Jerry Vignato. “I’m really proud of all these guys.”

While the final score ended up lopsided in their favor, Westside didn’t get out to the best of starts on Saturday. Ace pitcher Austin Sands needed 33 pitches to get out of the bottom of the first inning. He kept his composure and held Campbell to just one run. After allowing a leadoff single to start the bottom of the second, Westside lifted Sands in favor of Sam Sylvia. All Sylvia did was take the ball and proceed to strikeout 12 out of the 20 batters he faced. In five innings of work, he allowed just one earned run and struckout the final six batters in a row.

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“I tried not to do too much out there, just keep it simple and do what’s been working for me most of the season,” chimed Sylvia, who dazzled with an excellent fastball-curveball combination. “My curveball definitely felt good today.”

Sam came in, and man, I looked at [coach] Vinny [Santiago] and Vinny looked at me and was like, ‘he ain’t coming out,’” chuckled Vignato. “He pitched a wonderful game.”

Sylvia would hit a late home run in addition to his performance on the mound, but the key hits for Westside belonged to Joey Schlessleman and Steven Souza. After Orlando Lewis led off the top of the third inning with a single, Schlessleman followed up with an RBI triple in the very next at bat to tie the game at 1-1. Four batters later it was Souza knocking a single to left field, driving in two runs and increasing the lead to 4-1.

“I remember being in a 0-2 count and I just wanted to put a good swing on it and put it in play,” recalled Schlessleman on his game-tying, RBI triple. “Luckily it found a hole.”

“It was a curveball and I think I had one strike on me. Coaches usually say don’t swing at the curveball unless it’s two strikes,” said Souza on his two-RBI single. “But he left it high and inside, he hung it. He left it right there for me to drive it.”

“It’s like having two shortstops with Orlando and Joey, because it’s not just Joey’s bat, it’s his glove too at second base, they cover so much range,” noted Vignato. “Then you throw in Joey’s bat, he got that clutch hit today. Souza too, his big hit gives us a little breathing room, that was a huge knock.”

Westside will now set their sights on eclipsing last year’s team, which reached the Section-5 Championship game through the winner’s bracket, but then lost their final two games. If Westside wins the Section-5 Tournament they will then advance to play in the Northern California State tournament.

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