With an even and steady performance from their batters and pitching rotation, Foresthill defeated Grass Valley, 16-11, in Little League All-Stars action Monday night at Pioneer Park.
Grass Valley and Foresthill had met three days prior in a game which the defending champions dominated 20-3. But Foresthill recovered, downing Penn Valley and Nevada City to force a rematch in the semifinals of the Little League Major Division District 11 (Area 2) tournament. With the win, Foresthill advances to play Sierra Foothills at 6:30 p.m. today.
Going in to the top of the third inning, the game was tied at three apiece. But, Foresthill used Grass Valley’s mistakes to their advantage. After Justin Leyba drew a walk and Paul Arnett was hit by a pitch, Nick Lechner hit a double to knock Leyba and Arnett in. One batter later, an errant throw to first on what would have been a bang-bang play at the bag advanced Anthony Packard to third base and allowed Lechner to score. It was one of what was a myriad of both forced and unforced errors on Grass Valley’s defense, and it helped Foresthill to seven runs in the inning.
Grass Valley’s pitching had a shaky start. Three straight walks to begin the game loaded the bases for Foresthill, but it looked as if Grass Valley would escape after Aidan Keros fanned two to end the inning. But the would-be swinging third strike was in the dirt and couldn’t be corralled, allowing Foresthill to draw first blood with a run and extend the inning.
Staring at a 3-0 hole, Grass Valley responded in the bottom of the second. After a Keros single, Chris Buonarati hit a double to put the first point on the board. Tucker Ramos provided the equalizer, launching a two-run homer to bring his team back to even with Foresthill.
After their disastrous third inning, Grass Valley once again had to play from behind. A double from Keros and a single from Buonarati in the fourth closed the gap to 13-9. The four-point difference would prove to be the closest Grass Valley would come, as Foresthill’s Trevor Davis, who was 3-for-4 with five runs batted in, would cement the lead after a sixth inning double.
In the bottom of the sixth, singles from Kai LaBarbera, Ty Daughtery, Ramos, and Derek Weaver made things a bit stressful for a Foresthill team looking to advance. But the next batter popped out and now Foresthill must look towards their upcoming challenge. Sierra Foothills, who Foresthill will have to defeat twice in order t o advance, is 3-0 in the tournament and has outscored their opponents 46 to 11. For now, however, Foresthill manager Marcos Leyba is simply happy with the win.
“They’ve got nothing but heart,” Leyba said of his team. “They’ve played very well the last three games, they’ve got heart and they’re gritty and they’re just getting it done.”
Spencer Kellar is an intern with The Union.