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July 21, 2013
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Grass Valley blanks El Dorado to win American Legion District Championship

It’s a philosophy that has been around since the beginning of sport — defense wins championships.

That was the case Saturday at Ted White Field as the Grass Valley Post 130 Miners claimed their second straight American Legion District Championship, beating El Dorado Post 119 6-0.

“These guys were dialed in,” Grass Valley manager Jim Souza said. “We had a talk about our defense from prior games, and it must have stuck because these guys came out to play. I’m real proud of them, and this is what I expect out of these guys, and this is what they are capable of.”

The Miners played an error-free game, which was made all the more impressive by the fact that El Dorado only struck out once. Grass Valley tallied 14 groundball outs, turned two double plays and never allowed a runner to reach third base.

Grass Valley pitcher Chris Sardo kept El Dorado off balance all day by mixing speeds and pounding the strike zone. Sardo went the distance, throwing all seven innings while allowing no runs, just four hits and one walk. Sardo’s only strike out on the day closed the game.

“I saved him for this game,” Souza said. “Chris has been our guy as a reliever all season long, and I had given him a start here and there, but in a big game like this, I know what he’s capable of. I’m real impressed with this left-hander, and when his curve is on, he freezes guys. He was making the quality pitches he needed to make, was getting a lot of groundballs, and we can’t ask any more than that, and I am so proud of him I gave him the game ball, and I haven’t done that all year long.”

Sardo said the key to his success was continuing to pound the strike zone and that El Dorado kept hitting the pitches that were out of the strike zone.

Sardo got plenty of run support with the Miners plating their first run in the third inning when Jakob Freele manufactured a run with his speed. The talented leadoff hitter and center fielder for Grass Valley reached on an infield single, then stole second, advanced to third on a ground ball and finally scored on a passed ball that trickled only 5 feet from the plate. Freele finished the day 2-for-4 with two RBIs, a stolen base and a run scored.

The Miners added two more runs in the fifth inning with Jordan Jiannino getting things started with a base knock. Jiannino also had an amazing game at second base making several hit stealing plays. Jiannino would move from first to third on a Dalton Maxwell double and then score on a Nolan Fillman RBI single. Maxwell would then score on an error to put Grass Valley up 3-0.

The Miners put the game out of reach in the sixth with three insurance runs. Brady Porter, Christian Straub and Garrett O’Callaghan all walked to open the inning, loading the bases with no outs. Jiannino drove in Porter with an RBI ground out, and Freele brought Straub and O’Callaghan across with a base hit.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” Souza said. “Plus we are at home and we get the win against a team we had difficulty with throughout the regular season, but today you never would’ve known it. We did what we had to do and now we need to focus and get ready to play in Vacaville.”

Throughout the tourney, the Miners outscored their opponents 20-7 (three games), beating Bear River in Thursday’s tourney opener, El Dorado Friday and then El Dorado again after it battled back to the championship game from the losers bracket.

With the district championship under their belt, the Miners will now head to the area tournament Friday in Vacaville.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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The Union Updated Jul 21, 2013 11:46PM Published Jul 21, 2013 11:46PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.