“I swung as hard as I could and the next thing I know it’s flying and it’s over the fence.”
That was Lucas Gandara’s recollection of his first-pitch, walk-off homer late Friday afternoon that sent his Sunnyvale squad soaring into the Section 5 tournament. The Sunnyvale 12U All Stars are now District 44 Champions, beating Campbell in the District finale by 10-run rule in four innings, 12-1.
Gandara’s three-run blast to center field was the cherry on top of a game that saw Sunnyvale receive contributions up and down the roster. Starting pitcher Luke Canabou held Campbell to just the one run, while leadoff man William Tai started an eventual five-run, third-inning rally with a triple down the left field line. Noam Katz, batting out of the eighth spot in the lineup, also had a multi-hit game. The second of Katz’s two hits knocked in the fifth and sixth runs, for all intents and purposes, putting the game away.
“I’m really surprised right now, all the other teams put up a really good fight,” said Katz when asked about being a District 44 champion. “We played really well, our defense held the other teams to very few runs. Feels really good to win District 44.”
While Katz, Gandara, Canabou and Tai were the most notable standouts in the championship win, they were far from the only contributors. Ethan Tang came up with a pair of RBI’s with a fourth inning single and William Hsu smoked a double in the first inning. Hsu would score later in that first inning on a sacrifice fly by Alex Venables. Venables was a force at the plate all tournament long, particularly when opponents would intentionally walk Canabou, which Campbell did twice on Friday.
“It’s super frustrating because you want to hit and drive the guys in,” admitted Canabou, who was automatically walked in both of his first two trips to the plate. “But the other teams won’t let me.”
Sunnyvale Head Coach Albert Tang would probably make for a great politician with his response on seeing his No. 3 hitter having the bat taken out of his hands in both of his first two plate appearances.
“Just let the kids play, that’s all I have to say.”
With the level of competition going up a notch at the next stage, perhaps Sunnyvale’s opponents will be more willing to go after Canabou. The ace pitcher realizes his team now has an even tougher challenge ahead of them.
“Section 5 competition is going to be a lot harder, it’s the best of every district,” said Canabou. “So we’re going to have to be on our A game, which we were today.”
With the combination of high-end talent and execution of fundamental baseball, it’s easy to see why this Sunnyvale team has gotten to this stage. They have brought their A game on as consistent of a basis as any coach could ask for at this level.
“So proud of them, we’re excited,” added Coach Tang. “Back to work tomorrow.”