After opening the Section-5 tournament with three-straight offensively dominant victories–10-9, 10-4, 7-0–Santa Clara Westside fell twice to Willow Glen this past week, scoring just a combined five runs. Westside only needed to win one of the two games against Willow Glen–an opponent that they had shutout the previous week–to advance to the Northern California State Championships. Unfortunately for Westside fans, it wasn’t in the cards for their Little Leaguers as the Santa Clara squad fell 10-4 on Wednesday, before dropping a nail-biting, 2-1 decision on Thursday.
While Wednesday’s loss looks lopsided, one could make the case it was Westside’s hitters that accounted for the hardest hit balls of the afternoon. Willow Glen built their 9-0 lead primarily on infield singles, errors and wild pitches. The only balls hit to or beyond the outfield fence came off the bats of Westside stars Jordan Montez and Jessie Gutierrez. Montez drove a gapper that one-hopped the wall in right center and Gutierrez pumped a three-run homer to the opposite gap.
Based off previous performances, there was still an aura of confidence among Westside supporters going into Thursday. Just cleaning up the defense and the offense should deliver enough runs. However, only one of those things came to fruition. The defense did have a bounce-back game, but the offense remained quiet Thursday and the lucky bounces went the way of Willow Glen.
With the game still scoreless in the top of the third, Westside had shortstop Jarren Advincula at the plate with runners at first and second with nobody out. The speedy leadoff hitter hit from the left side, ergo, the chances of a double play were miniscule at best. However, that’s exactly what happened. Advincula hit a sharp ground ball right to the third baseman who stepped on his bag and then got the out at second.
“I was just shocked,” noted Advincula. “I knew I could have hit the ball better, but I thought for sure we would still come back because I believe in our team.”
Down two runs with just three outs to go, it was Advincula who would open up the sixth inning with a solid single.
“I got a fastball and put a good swing on it,” recalled Advincula on his clutch at bat. “I was just looking to get on any way I could to start a rally.”
The rally continued as the very next batter Jake Ellegood drove a double to the left field wall. Advincula would trot home, and after an intentional walk to Gutierrez, Westside was looking prime to at least tie the game, if not take the lead.
In a rather shocking turn of events, the Westside rally was quickly nipped in the bud. After a quick strikeout, the following batter hit into a game-ending double play.
For those wondering, the thought did occur to Head Coach Jeremy Advincula to perhaps sacrifice the runners over to second and third, but he elected not to, citing how bunts in Little League can be difficult to execute.
“The thing with bunting, as you saw earlier in the game, they tried to bunt their guy over and he ended up getting out at third. Bunting at this close of distance is really not an easy thing to do. Unless the third baseman is playing back, it’s a tough play in little league to execute a bunt.”
It was an unfortunate pair of losses to end the season. Neither Wednesday’s pitcher Jayce Dobie nor Thursday’s starter Ezekiel Chavez were hit particularly hard. In fact, the latter was stellar in his performance on the mound.
“I thought all my pitches were working,” noted Chavez after Thursday’s loss. “The knuckleball was good and the cutter too.”
Coach Advincula’s final message to his players was one of building towards the future.
“I told the kids, don’t hang your heads. This is a stepping stone for your career. Be proud of what we’ve done and build off of it. Game of baseball and game of life, it’s all about how we handle failures. The old Chinese saying, ‘get knocked down seven, get up eight.’ I’m really proud of the kids’ efforts.”