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June 28, 2011 > Junior A's walk to glory

Junior A's walk to glory

By Gary van den Heuvel

If the Fremont American Little League A's (juniors) have a theme song, it would probably be Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'." Their favorite ballplayer would have to be the Walking Run himself, Rickey Henderson. Their favorite movie? Walking Tall. They probably enjoy food that was cooked in a wok. You get the idea -- the A's are a highly disciplined offensive team, and they used that patience at the plate to win the Division 14 Juniors Tournament of Champions playoffs in a 12-8 slug-walkfest over Niles Centerville Little League's Giants.

The A's had advanced to the June 21 final at Newark Memorial High School by beating their previous two tourney opponents by a combined score of 39-4. They did this not by battering their overmatched opponents into submission, but by extending pitch counts, and making pitchers give them something to hit. More often than not, this didn't happen, and the A's were only too willing to come walking across home plate, which they did in droves.

The visiting A's started off right where they left off, with their first three batters (Andrew Jenkerson, Sean Root, Ted Medina) working walks to jam the bases. Starting pitcher Ryan Briscoe singled in the first run, and Sammie Sheldon's single drove in the next two. The A's added a run in the second inning when leadoff batter Dillon Webber walked, stole second, took third on an outfield error, and scored on a Mark Wiscombe single.

Briscoe sailed through the first two innings, allowing only a walk and a double, but the more free-swinging Giants weren't going to be silenced for too long. In the bottom of the third, Niles-Centerville put two runs on the board when a fielder's choice grounder scored Cooper Smith and Tony Chavez came home on an infield error.

Fremont American seemed to put the game out of reach with five runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Typically, they only needed one hit, a fifth inning double by Wiscombe which drove in Webber and Jenkerson, to accomplish this. Drawing six walks and getting a couple of defensive miscues didn't hurt either.

NCLL could only answer back with one run in each of the fourth and fifth frames, and down 10-4 entering the bottom of the sixth inning (the A's had added to their lead with another run in the sixth), looked dead in the water. With two outs and a runner on first, the Giants gave hope to their fans when Chavez singled, Gabe Papadoupolos reached on an infield error, and Nick Lawrence scalded a triple to drive in three. John Johonnet singled Lawrence home, and suddenly Niles-Centerville had closed the gap to 10-8. Basil Nite's liner to short ended the rally, but the momentum seemed to be swinging the Giants way.

FALL put up two much-needed insurance runs in the seventh with - get this - no walks. Wiscombe and Briscoe got aboard on errors. Luis Rivera delivered an RBI single, and Briscoe scored on a 6-4-3 double play. In the last of the seventh, the Giants did not go quietly, loading the bases with three singles. The game ended with a force out at the plate on a comebacker to the mound.

In the Division 14 Seniors TOC, Niles-Centerville Little League 1 emerged as the champion by beating Mission San Jose 1 (Giants) by an 11-6 score. The Giants reached the final by beating Mission San Jose 2 (A's), 9-3 in the semifinals. Niles-Centerville 1 advanced on a forfeit by Niles-Centerville 2.

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