Giants rally once again
For the second time in three nights, the Bear River Giants battled back in their final at bat of the game to emerge with Tournament of Champions victories.
On Tuesday, in the Area 2 championship game, the Giants regrouped from a 14-12 deficit to pull out a 15-14 win in the bottom of the seventh inning.
On Thursday, in the District 11 championship series, the Giants rallied with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning for a 4-2 win against the Rocklin Rangers at Bear River Little League.
Brothers Tyler and Josh Toft each drove in runs with RBI singles, while teammate Justin Brown pushed across the third run of the inning for the final score.
The Giants, who improved to 23-2 on the year, now hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three-games series. Game two is set for 7 p.m. today at Lincoln Little League. Game three, if necessary, would return to Bear River Little League at 7 p.m. Saturday.
In contrast to Tuesday night’s extra-inning slugfest with the Sierra Foothills Giants, Bear River’s bats were kept quiet for most of night Thursday. Rocklin righthander Jimmy Moreno kept the Giants off balance with both his fastball and curveball, racking up 10 strikeouts on the night.
But after trailing 2-0 throughout most of the game, Bear River finally broke into the scoring column in the fourth inning. Brown singled and scored on a double to center field by Kyle Soria, making things 2-1 with two innings left to play.
The Giants managed just one hit through the first three innings of play Thursday, but broke things open in their final two at bats with four runs on four hits.
“(Moreno’s) curveball was deadly,” Bear River manager James Toft said. “He didn’t get it over all the time, but it was enough to keep our kids off balance.
“We figured eventually our kids would come around and hit him, because the second time around they are little more aggressive.”
On the opposite side of the ledger, the Rangers got things going early. After Josh Toft struck out three in the first inning, Rocklin’s Sammy Woods led off the second inning with a single and scored on a double by Ryan McCormick for a 1-0 lead. Josh Toft then regrouped to force a fly out and fanned the final batter of the inning before calling it a night on the mound.
“His arm was hurting,” James Toft said. “He was a little sore after throwing 86 pitches the other night. He did fine (in the first inning), but in the second inning he came out and I could tell he was hurting. He stuck with it though and got us out of the inning.”
Bear River then handed the ball to Brown, who threw the final four innings for the Giants. Brown struck out six and walked two while allowing three hits and one run. The first batter he faced, Kyle Gross in the third inning, singled and then scored on a pair of wild pitches. But from that point forward, Rocklin had a tough time finding the ball coming out of Brown’s right hand.
“I think it was the team that helped me (settle down),” said Brown, 12, who will be an eighth-grader at Magnolia School this fall. “They just pumped me up and we started hitting.”
While he was finding his own rhythm on the hill, a noticeable smile spread across his face several times when he found success with a new pitch – with knuckleball-like action – he recently learned.
“I was trying to throw the new pitch – a football pitch – and it was going down and they were swinging over it,” he said. “And the parents were like ‘Whoa! Yeah!’ and it made me smile, because it was fun.”
His manager liked what he saw out of the new pitch, too.
“That’s a pitch Coach Jess (Soria) taught him,” James Toft said. “We don’t like to have them throw a curveball, because of the twist in the wrist. They’re just too young for that. But this football pitch, you throw it like you would a football and the ball just bounces around.
“Justin was amazing tonight. He pitched the game of his life.”
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4240.
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