Pioneer Park played host to a Little League Major Division showdown Thursday night between the district-leading Nevada City Angels and their closest competitors, the hard-hitting Bear River Diamondbacks.
The Angels entered the contest undefeated, with a single tie the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record of 16-0-1.
The Diamondbacks boasted a similarly gaudy record, having run off a string of 12 consecutive victories after losing their first game to the Bear River White Sox. Although a tie to those same White Sox earlier in the week left the Diamondbacks at 12-1-1, they came into Thursday’s contest with a chip on their shoulder, looking to wrest away a share of the District 11 Area 2 pennant from the Angels.
The Angels, however, turned out to have other plans for that pennant, preferring to keep it in Nevada City, as they turned away the Diamondbacks with a thrilling 9-5 victory in a well-played game that was closer than the final score indicated.
The heroes were many on a night when the score seesawed between the Diamondbacks and the Angels. Bear River slugger Porter Elliott staked his starting pitcher, Caleb Edwards, to an early 2-0 lead with a solid home run in the top of the first. The Angels, however, came out swinging in the bottom of one with Trevor Neilson banging a leadoff double off the fence in left center. Bennett King followed with a solid rope to dead center that had the misfortune of being aimed directly at Elliott, who put it away capably. Not to be deterred, Angels catcher, Pat Farrell, delivered Neilson home with an RBI single. Although another single by Seth De Sena followed, Edwards was able to wriggle himself off the hook and returned to the dugout with a 2-1 lead.
The second inning found Angels starter, Kolby Stancil, in a solid groove, spotting a solid fastball against a bafflingly wicked array of off-speed pitches. Stancil struck out five in his two innings of work, needing only a single infield assist to record his six outs. However, Edwards was in a groove of his own for the D-backs, and although he allowed Neilson yet another leadoff double off the wall in center in the bottom of the third, he was once again able to escape the potential jam by generating hard-hit balls directly at sure-handed Bear River fielders.
As the game entered the bottom of the fourth with the Angels trailing 4-1, fans got the sense of two heavyweight prizefighters feeling one another out, probing for weaknesses before the inevitable heavy blows began to land. They didn’t have long to wait. Seth De Sena greeted the newly-entered Bear River relief pitcher with a sharp single that he was able to stretch into a double with some savvy base running. De Sena showed his hustle again by scoring from second on an RBI single by Derek Hicks, drawing the Angels to within two runs at a score of 4-2, and bringing Angels slugger Devin Anderson to the plate. Anderson shook off an early strike and took the next pitch out of the yard for a two-run homer, bringing his team-leading total to five for the season and tying the game in the process. With an all-new ballgame in hand, the Angels did not let off the gas. After a series of bases-on-balls, Bennett King delivered a two-RBI double that capped a six-run fourth and left the Angels with a 7-4 advantage.
Anderson returned to the hill in the top of the fifth and stifled any thoughts of a D-backs rally with two quick strikeouts and a groundout. The Angels returned to the plate and were able to tack two more runs onto their lead, courtesy of De Sena’s third hit of the night and Wes Forslund-Mooers’ aggressive baserunning.
The Diamondbacks came to the plate for their last ups in the top of the sixth trailing 9-4 and needing a spark. Porter Elliott provided exactly that, hitting his second home run to cap off a huge night at the plate. A single up the middle followed, and with the Diamondbacks showing renewed life, the next hitter blooped a Texas leaguer out over second that nearly dropped until the Angels’ scrappy second baseman, Forslund-Mooers, leapt high into the night air, and snagged the ball for the second out. Anderson followed with his eighth and final strikeout in his four innings of work, ending the game for the Halos and igniting a Gatorade bath for manager, Phil King.
With the victory, the Angels need only one more win to close out an undefeated 2014 regular season and claim the District 11 Area 2 pennant.
Minors: NC Reds 9,
NC Nationals 8
The top two Nevada City Minor League teams from the regular season squared off June 3 in what Pioneer Park baseball fans knew would be a barn burner.
The Reds beat the Nationals in a squeaker, 9-8, taking the five-round tournament lead with three wins and no losses.
The game was all Reds in the beginning, with Ben Fitzpatrick scorching a two-RBI triple in the bottom of the first inning. Fitzpatrick also kept the Nats scoreless from the mound through the first two innings, backed by tight defense from Corey Ellis at shortstop. After Isaiah Carter put the Nat’s first run on the board at the top of the third with a towering ground rule double, the Reds exploded with five runs in the bottom to take the lead 8-1.
The Nats, not to be outdone, opened the top of the fourth with an inside-the-park home run by Jake Jensen, who finished the day 3-for-3, followed by Cole Barton scoring on a passed ball to make it 8-3. J.T. Conway, who went 3-for-4 at the plate, shut down the Reds in the bottom of the fourth from the rubber.
In the top of the fifth, ignited by a lead-off double from T.J. Parnow, it was the Nats turn to explode, putting five runs on the board to tie the game.
In the top of the sixth, Jonathan Highsmith shut down the Nationals, and helped his cause with a great comebacker play, along with a super defensive effort by Ben Legge at third base.
With the game tied in the bottom of the sixth, Ellis and Fitzpatrick paired up for a walk-off win when Fitzpatrick launched a searing single to center field, bringing home Ellis to finish the score at 9-8.
The Nats, now 2-1 in the tournament will have to depend on the Red Sox, also 2-1, to even up the win-loss record in round four when they meet the Reds for the first time.
The NCLL Minors Tournament ends at Pioneer Park Wednesday.
Coaches may submit game reports by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 530-477-4232. deadline for submission is 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday.