After winning their League Championship last week, the Santa Clara Westside Rays took on the Sunnyvale Indians in the District 44 Tournament of Champions on Tuesday. While the Rays would dig themselves a deep hole early, pitcher Tommy Castro would settle things down on the mound coming in during the second inning. His four and two-thirds innings of relief gave the Rays a chance to get back into the ball game after going down 4-0 early.
With the score 6-0, the Rays ended the top of the fourth with an impressive double play started by shortstop Charles Conley, who snagged a hard hit one-hop ball before feeding Zach Kwon covering second base. Kwon then made a strong throw over to Camren Chaloux at first to end the inning. The rare Little League double play seemed to spark the Rays bats, as they would cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth.
Jack McLachlan and Jonathan Young would each reach base, the latter’s walk would set the table for a sacrifice fly from leadoff hitter Sergio Alvarez. With the score 6-1, the Rays would inch closer with heads up play on the bases. They moved up bases and eventually stole their third run on a double steal with runners at first and third.
“I actually didn’t know the score,” chuckled Rays Head Coach Charles Conley, as the Sunnyvale field has no scoreboard. “But then we scored three, and I was happy the kids had started hitting, playing the way they had been playing all year.”
The way they had been playing all year was by committee, in true team fashion. Everyone would play everywhere.
“I loved playing for this team and teammates,” chimed center fielder and cleanup hitter Collin Gates. “Being able to play every single position and not just one, that was really exciting.”
If it wasn’t for the job Castro did on the mound, the Rays might not have had a chance to get back to their usual team game.
“He did really good. He threw strikes like we wanted him to,” praised teammate Charles Conley, son of the Rays’ skipper. “He really just didn’t have much defense backing him up.”
Perhaps the young Conley was being modest, as his double play with Kwon was one of a handful of solid defensive plays the Rays made in the field. Kwon gave credit to his double play partner for starting such an impressive sequence.
“That was a pretty hard hit ball, so I thought if Charles got it, we might have enough time to turn it,” recalled Kwon. “He fielded it cleanly and it was a smooth transition, gave me a great feed right to my glove.”
Unfortunately for the Rays, they would be unable to get any closer in the fifth and sixth innings, eventually falling to the Indians by a 7-3 final. The season for the Rays is now over, but a number of the players will be heading to All Stars which will begin later this month.