Santa Clara Westside’s 9-10-year-old All Star team not only won District 44 this season, but the young squad went all the way to the Championship game of the Section 5 tournament. Just like Westside’s 11-12 team from 2017 though, this group would come up just short in the end, dropping their final two games in the Championship round.
Despite losing to Cambrian Park on both Monday and Tuesday, the Santa Clara team had a terrific run. Their final win of the season on Saturday was an absolute thriller.
Saturday’s victory didn’t get off to an auspicious start as the team from Santa Teresa dropped a three-spot in the top of the first inning. A couple of defensive errors helped ignite the rally after starting pitcher Ian Eckland retired the first two batters he faced. Fortunately, on this day for Santa Clara fans, both Eckland and the defense behind him became locked in from that point on with the offense doing just enough.
Westside’s bats would answer back immediately in the bottom of the first with a pair of runs. Isaiah Beyah worked a deep count, before leading off with a single. Two batters later Zach Gallegos blooped a double to shallow left field. Both would come home to score on a two-out dribbler up the first base line by Aiden Lepisi. Westside added two more runs in the second inning to take a 4-3 lead. For the remainder of the middle innings, though, it was the defense that led the way.
Shortstop Dominick Chavarria came up with not one, but two unassisted double plays, while third baseman Ryan Wharton knocked down a multitude of hard hit balls at the hot corner.
“I’m really proud of our team, we stood tall today, took our time with our fielding and made the plays,” remarked Chavarria. “Teamwork is a dreamwork.”
“The defense was fantastic,” echoed Gallegos. “We made some errors, but overall they did a great job.”
“They did really good,” said Beyah on his view of the defense from behind home plate as the starting catcher. “I got worried a little bit, but they stayed with it. I knew Dom would get those plays and finish them.”
“[Dominick] is an amazing young shortstop,” praised Westside Manager Michael Wharton. “He’s probably got the softest hands I have seen at that age. You watch him cradle the ball up, just an amazing player and his baseball acumen is off the charts.”
The defense behind Eckland allowed Westside to hold to the slim 4-3 lead from the second inning onward until the sixth. With the game on the line, Santa Teresa managed to tie the score and still had bases loaded with one out. Gallegos, who had come in for Eckland on the mound, remained calm though and managed two get the final two outs to keep the score knotted up.
Westside went three up three down in their half of the sixth, but in the bottom of the seventh it was Chavarria’s one-out double followed by a single by Gio Dominguez that sent the Santa Clara stands into a frenzy, celebrating a 5-4 walk-off victory.
Dominick Chavarria #1
Evan Johnson #2
Savion Thomas #3
Isaiah Beyah #4
Darlo Walker #5
Aiden Lepisi #6
Zach Gallegos #7
Ryan Wharton #8
Brian Flora #9
Bishop Roque #10
Gio Dominguez #11
Ian Eckland #12
Ricky Barrientos #13