Saturday and Monday nights’ championship games for District 44 were tough pills to swallow for Santa Clara Westside fans. After beating Moreland 4-1 in the second game of the tournament, Westside found themselves needing just one more win to advance to the sectional tournament, but that one win would prove elusive.
After Moreland defeated Briarwood, they advanced for a rematch with Westside, needing to win twice and that’s exactly what they did. On Saturday, Moreland squeaked by Westside whilst only scoring a single run. A pitcher’s duel of the highest level, Westside’s Bishop Roque allowed just an RBI groundout, taking the hard-luck, 1-0 loss.
Monday’s win or go-home game started out looking like a carbon copy of Saturday’s game. Moreland squeaked across a run on a wild pitch in the first inning. The score remained just 1-0 from the bottom of the first all the way until the bottom of the fifth when Moreland added two big insurance runs. Westside would be unable to respond in their last at bats in the sixth, as Moreland would finish off a second-straight shutout to win the championship.
“Two really good pitchers we faced, those kids threw really well,” remarked Westside Manager Tim Farnham after Monday’s game. “We knew we were in an uphill battle, they threw really well, that’s just the way it goes.”
Not only was Westside facing off against two talented pitchers, but Westside was also unfortunately missing two starters and three players overall due to positive COVID-19 cases.
“We lost a lot of our key contributors to COVID,” said leadoff hitter Alec Howell, an 11-year-old who showed poise beyond his years filling in as catcher. “They were getting us excited in the dugout and helping us out on the field, I think that was one of the biggest reasons we weren’t able to win the championship.”
Along with Howell, who had one of the big hits in the lone inning where Westside threatened to score, one of the other key players for Westside during the final two games was shortstop Matthew Tolbert. The 12-year-old was smooth with the glove and had a base hit in Saturday’s game.
“Maybe better hitting,” responded Tolbert when asked what was needed to have come up with a different outcome in the championship. “Sona throws fast, we all have to get better at facing faster pitchers.”
For the second-straight game, Westside had a strong pitching performance of their own. Lucas Micun pitched the whole game, holding Moreland to just one run through the first four innings on the mound.
“He’s an absolute warrior,” said Farnham about his starting pitcher. “I got to coach him all year long with the Dodgers. Just a great kid, highly intelligent, does anything we ask him to do and he wanted the ball tonight. He probably didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but pretty darn close, kept us in the game so we had a chance at the end. Just a great kid.”
Josh Capps also had a couple of great plays in the field for Westside on Monday night as Westside played strong defense behind Micun. They just couldn’t get that one extra hit they needed when they had runners on second and third in the third inning.