The Sunnyvale Junior All Stars have cruised into the championship round for the District 44 tournament. Wins by scores of 23-1 and 15-5 have Sunnyvale set to face either Cupertino or Los Altos on Saturday, July 9.
Since it’s a double-elimination tournament, Sunnyvale will have two chances to win one game to advance to the section tournament. Either Cupertino or Los Altos, who face each other on Thursday, July 6, will then have to beat Sunnyvale twice to pull off the upset and move forward.
For now, it appears more than likely that Sunnyvale will be that team to move on to the next tournament and represent District 44. Thus far they have destroyed the competition. The 23-1 win over Mountain View was over in the first inning and while Cupertino took a 2-0 lead over Sunnyvale, it was a short-lived advantage. Sunnyvale stormed back with six runs in the bottom of the first, eventually winning on the 10-run mercy rule. Through the first two victories, the top performer for the Sunnyvale team has undoubtedly been catcher Will Hamburger.
Hamburger picked off a runner at third base for the first out of the game against Cupertino. The cannon throw set the tone for the game even though Sunnyvale had fallen behind in the top half of the first.
“All four of our catchers have free will to throw back and back pick runners,” remarked Sunnyvale Head Coach Tom Daron. “So, we always practice getting our first and third basemen back on the bag and ready for any pickoff attempts.”
“I think that out started our momentum in a good positive way,” noted Hamburger on his first-inning pickoff. “That helped carry the momentum and energy throughout the whole game.”
Sunnyvale would escape the top of the first having allowed just the two runs, mostly on walks and errors. Cupertino did not make any loud contact against Sunnyvale starter James Nam.
Nam would lead off the bottom of the inning with a walk, while Jayden Duong and Hamburger followed suit with free passes of their own. The big hit of the inning was an RBI single by Ren O’hara, a smash line-drive single to left field for an RBI that tied the score at 2-2. Joseph Murai also had a hard hit single to drive in a run to make the score 5-2.
The Sunnyvale Junior All Stars would add one more run in the inning and never looked back.
Taking over on the mound for Sunnyvale and cruising for the middle innings was Howard Cheng. The right-handed pitcher didn’t allow an earned run until his final inning in the sixth.
“Some of my pitches were working and some weren’t,” chimed the humble Cheng. “I did have pretty good control today though. I usually throw fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, but today I didn’t throw many changeups nor curveballs.”
“Howard, in practice, is probably our best pitcher,” acknowledged Daron. “He has the nastiest stuff, and we’re just trying to translate that into games right now. He came in throwing hard and today he was on his game. It was exactly what we needed.”