After four straight days of baseball, the Santa Clara Westside 11-12 All Stars are District 44 Champions. Having lost to Los Altos on Wednesday, Westside had to come back the next three consecutive days in order to advance. After beating Briarwood on Thursday, Westside beat Los Altos twice in a row, culminating in Saturday’s championship win, 10-7.
On Friday, Westside made quick work of Los Altos with an 11-0, 10-run-rule victory in four innings. Jayce Dobie was fantastic on the mound and his teammates behind him came up with multiple displays of defensive brilliance. Second baseman Jake Ellegood made an amazingly quick feed to shortstop Jarren Advincula, kick starting an extremely impressive double play. Meanwhile Ellegood and right fielder Mitchell Gonzalez combined on a picture-perfect relay to throw out a runner trying to stretch a double into a triple.
“We play quick catch, they know they have to have a sense of urgency [on those double plays],” commented Head Coach Jeremy Advincula. “And thank goodness that Mitch busted his butt to the ball and hit his cutoff man. And then Jake, one of, if not our best infielder, gets the ball and relays it like he normally does, throws the ball on the money.”
“I was just thinking I needed to get the ball out of my hands as quick as I could,” noted Ellegood on starting the double play.
While the middle infielders shined defensively on Friday, it was the corner infielders who powered the offense. Third baseman Kailan Chao opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the first inning and starting first baseman Jordan Montez added a two-RBI double in the second. And finally, fellow first baseman Logan Vieira crushed a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the fourth.
“I was just looking for something I could drive,” noted Vieira on the game-ending grand slam. “I was actually ahead of it, it was a knuckleball.”
Vieira’s slam propelled Westside into a winner take all finale. While Friday’s game was a blowout, fans in attendance Saturday needed to buckle up for what turned out to be a wild ride. In total, there were four lead changes. Los Altos took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Westside responded with a four-run inning in the bottom. Los Altos would then score six unanswered runs between the second and third to go up 7-4. Westside however, would come right back with a pair of two-run homers, retaking the lead 8-7. In the bottom of the third it was Gonzalez hitting one to left field–the first of his Little League career–and relief pitcher Ross Raineri crushed one to straight away center.
Not only did Raineri’ home run stand up as the game-winning RBI, but he also pitched a shutout in his 3 and 2/3 innings of relief.
“Ross works extremely hard and has a great attitude,” commented coach Advincula afterward. “Today he comes in, hits a bomb to put us ahead and then shuts the door.”
“I felt strong out there and just let my defense make plays,” chimed Raineri, defecting credit to his teammates. “Thanks to my defense, we just shut them down. My curveball worked well and Jayce did a good job catching, blocking all the fastballs I threw in the dirt.”
Westside’s other home run hitter Saturday was their small in stature, but big in heart outfielder. Gonzalez got a hold of one down the left field line in the third that cut the Los Altos lead to 7-6.
“I just remember being short to the ball and just hitting it,” recalled Gonzalez. “I thought it was a pop up, but then it just kept carrying and carrying. My first home run ever. I was so happy.”
“Mitchell’s heart is bigger than what he looks like,” lauded Advincula. “He is such a bulldog. Earlier in the tournament I didn’t have him starting, but Mitch made the most of his opportunities. He willed his way into the starting lineup and just had a great game. So proud of him.”
For some of these Westside players, including Chao, this was a redemption victory. Last season Chao was on the 10-11 year-old team that lost to Los Altos in the championship. This time around, the Westside players and their coach are cherishing a victory that was far from easy.
“This is a huge accomplishment, it’s not an easy task,” admitted coach Advincula. “So happy for these guys.”
“Feels really good because last year we didn’t get the victory,” remarked Chao. “We had to beat them twice and didn’t, but this year we did, feels really good.”
“This is my first time winning,” added Raineri. “So I’m really excited, we have a really good team.”
Westside now advances to the Section 5 tournament, hosted by Los Gatos.