‘Dream team’ | TheUnion.com

‘Dream team’

Pioneer Park, adorned with red, white and blue flags on a beautiful mid-summer’s night, epitomized small town America Little League, with children running in the wooded perimeter of the outfield lined with lawn chairs seating proud parents.

The District 11 Little League Majors championship tournament came to an end Monday night under the lights, as Penn Valley clinched a 9-8 victory over the Rocklin All-Stars in Nevada City.

Most of the Penn Valley All-Stars had been through this before, but that didn’t spoil the fun for the 11 and 12 year-olds celebrating their second District 11 title.

Holding off Area 1 champion Rocklin, Penn Valley’s All-Stars earned the right to advance to the opening round of the California Section 4 Tournament Thursday at Tri-City Little League.

“This group of kids have been together for four years now,” said Penn Valley manager Rich Benevento. “They won the 9-and-10s (All-Stars) as District 11 champions and now they’ve won the 11-and-12s.

“This is a team that has really played together a long time. It’s our team from little Penn Valley. It’s our dream team.”

Penn Valley jumped out to a 7-1 lead, with several players swinging the sticks. Dusty Zeisler was 3-for-3 on the night, while Tanner Vallejo was 2-for-3 with a home run. Kyle Cota and Roland Pussich each also had two hits in the win.

The top of the second inning was filled with big-hitting action, including a double down the third-base line by Penn Valley’s Vallejo. Cota, followed up with his own double, driving home two runs. A squeeze play, followed by yet another ground-rule double, drove another two more runs to increase Penn Valley’s lead by six runs.

In the final inning of the game, Penn Valley took the field to secure the win. Rocklin’s Jack Wittwer had a hard-hit ball down the third-base line for a double. With one out, Jake Faulkner answered with a double, putting two runners in scoring position and J.R. Robinson got a base on balls, filling the bases. One by one, four runners were walked home, narrowing Penn Valley’s lead to just one.

After Rocklin rallied late, Pussich stood on the mound with bases loaded and two out sin in the sixth and final inning.

He then struck out the final batter of the game to claim the championship in dramatic fashion.

Penn Valley’s manager said he was proud of the way his team responded to Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to Rocklin in the District series opener.

“I want to congratulate all the kids for a real team effort,” said Benevento. “Offensively, defensively and just the way they played together. They stayed focused and just absolutely had an incredible run through the District.”

Just as many members of the 9-10 year-old title team comprised the current championship club, Benevento noted that he and his assistant coaches, Kris Hansen and Wade Lujan were also with the group for four years. Hansen was the manager of the 9-10 title team.

Penn Valley will return to action at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Tri-City Little League in Rocklin, facing the champion from District 6 (West Sacramento).

9-10 year olds

Tri City 7, Bear River 5

The best-of-three games District 11 championship series in the 9-10 year-old division will go one more game today, as Tri-City pulled out a 7-5 win Monday over Bear River to even the series at Foresthill Little League.

“They brought their ace pitcher and they ended up with 11 strikeouts in the game,” Bear River manager Lance Mansuetti. “He’s been pretty much their dominant pitcher for the season.”

That pitcher, Logan Webb, totaled eight strikeouts of the 11 Ks for Tri-City.

Bear River led 2-0 in the third inning, but Tri-City ralled right back for a 3-2 lead. Bear River tied the game in the fourth at 3-3 and then again in the fifth at 5-5, after Brett Solomon socked a two-run homer into the scoreboard in center field.

But back came Tri-City with two runs in the bottom of the fifth for the deciding margin.

Solomon also had a double for Bear River, while Tyler Toft, Nick Mansuetti and Cole Huckaby each singled for Bear River. Solomon drew the start on the mound and threw 32⁄3 innings before being relieved by Kyle Soria, who threw the final 11⁄3 innings.

The teams are back in action at 5:30 p.m. today in the third-and-deciding game of the District 11 series.

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