Tuesday’s opening game of the 11U championship between Campbell and Santa Clara Westside Little Leagues is one the latter will want to quickly forget. Westside struggled Tuesday afternoon, falling behind early 1-0 in the first, 5-0 after the third and 9-0 after the fourth. The good news though is Westside came into Tuesday’s game only needing to win one game to become champions. Whereas Campbell had to win Tuesday to force a win or go home championship game on Thursday.
The other bit of good news for the Westside 11U team? They can remind themselves that the task is doable. Westside beat Campbell earlier in the tournament in a 13-12 thriller. They have already proven they can beat Campbell, despite their opponent having a number of taller and bigger players. Furthermore, in Tuesday’s eventual 11-5 loss they were able to score four runs in the fifth as the bats finally woke up.
“Their pitcher was definitely throwing well, but we faced him in the last game and did pretty well against him,” remarked Westside Manager Ryan Grace after the game. “I think our energy level got down a little bit early today and it took us a while to get it back up. I expect them to bounce back and have full energy for the next game.”
The best performance from start to finish for Westside on Tuesday was shortstop Julian Ramirez. Batting out of the two hole, Ramirez went three-for-three at the plate in his first three appearances. His two hardest hit balls were in his first two at bats, when the rest of the offense began the game cold.
“Yeah, I was feeling pretty good in the box,” chimed Ramirez on his day at the plate. “My coach teaches me to just battle and not be shy, to just swing the bat.”
One of the other standouts for Westside was Nolan Amaro, who once again shined defensively at second base and drew an RBI walk in the fifth inning rally.
“That’s a hard one,” responded Amaro when asked if he’d rather end the game with a diving catch or a walk-off hit. “I’d say walk-off hit.”
The biggest hit of Westside’s four-run rally in the fifth was a loud two-run double by Miles Flora that pulled Westside within 9-2. Westside would score twice more in the inning, but their rally would end after scoring four runs. The last out was a hard hit ball to shortstop with the bases loaded, but Campbell made the play by getting the force out at second base. Had the ball gotten through the infield, it could have potentially brought the score to 9-6.
In the big rally, Amaro and Owen Grace worked clutch walks, while Raphael Hsu notched a single up the middle and Max Rubio was hit by a pitch. Westside got another rally going in the sixth and final inning. Jackson Park and Flora each singled to put runners on the corners with just one out. Hsu and Anthony Smith drew walks, but Westside would only manage the one run in the inning before Campbell closed out the game, forcing Thursday’s winner take all 11U Championship matchup.