FASTPITCH SOFTBALL: Bulldogs, All Star Automotive to battle for American League Championship
No. 1 Walker’s Office Supply vs. No. 3 A-Z Supply, 7 p.m., Wednesday
No. 1 Bulldogs vs. No. 2 All-Star Automotive, 7 p.m., Thursday
Both games will be played at Les Eva Field in Memorial Park, Grass Valley
With a dominant effort from the circle backed by strong defense and just enough run support, All Star Automotive earned its way into the Nevada County Men’s Fastpitch American League Championship Game — their third straight title game appearance.
The defending American League champs and No. 2 seed All Star Auto is back to contend for the title after knocking off No. 3 Oroville Dirtbags, 2-0, Thursday night at Les Eva Field in Memorial Park.
“I thought we would come out banging a little more, but I’ll tell you what, (Mike) Milligan is a horse. I don’t how many strikeouts he had, but I think it was double digits,” All-Star Auto third baseman Justin Nicholson said. “We got some clutch hits when we needed them, the bottom of the lineup came up and did their thing too. It was a solid team effort.”
In a rematch of last year’s American League Championship game, All Star Auto didn’t wait long to grab an early lead on the Dirtbags as Nicholson ripped an RBI double in the bottom of the first inning.
They would add another run in the third inning when Kyler Caldwell drew a walk, moved to second on a David Aldrich sacrifice bunt, and later scored when he stole third and an errant throw allowed him to score.
Milligan, widely considered the league’s best pitcher, took care of the rest. The hard throwing Milligan went seven innings, struck out 13, walked one and allowed no runs on two hits.
The Dirtbags threatened in the fourth inning when Jake Fox ripped a one-out triple and Toby Thompson was hit by a pitch. But the next batter hit into a double play and Milligan escaped the inning with no damage.
All Star Auto will now face the No. 1 seed Bulldogs, who reached the American League championship game by topping No. 4 Gold Country Automotive, 8-3, Thursday.
The Bulldogs’ path to the title game started off rocky as they fell behind Gold Country Auto, 3-0, after Adam Custer hit a two-run homerun in the top of the fourth inning.
The Bulldogs responded with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning, followed by three more in the fifth and four more in the sixth. Leading the Bulldogs was Jeff Nye with a solo homerun, Jeromy Hoskins with a single and an RBI double, Justin Deme with a single and an RBI double, Jarett Roenicke with a single, a triple and two RBIs, and Josh Van Matre with an RBI double.
Bulldogs pitcher Bobby Alvara was strong from the circle all night, throwing seven innings and notching 16 strikeouts.
For the Bulldogs, it will be their second trip to the title game in three years after winning it all in 2015, when they edged All Star Auto.
The Nevada County Men’s Fastpitch American League championship is set for 7 p.m., Thursday at Les Eva Field.
“It’s going to be a big one,” said Nicholson. “We need to come out a little more aggressive. Bobby (Alvara) is a great pitcher, and if he gets confidence he’s really hard to hit. We got to get to him early.”
The Nevada County Men’s Fastpitch National League championship game will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday at Les Eva Field.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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