|Serra Little League News
Serra 10-9 All Stars
Win Section 5 Championship
By Mike Barnhart, for Silicon Valley
This story appeared in the
7/23/2014 online edition of the
San Jose Mercury News
already had come through big time for the Serra Little League 9-10 all-stars,
pitching 4 1/3 innings in the championship game against Los Gatos on a day when
the team's four primary hurlers were ineligible for mound duty.
James was not done.
With the score tied, the bases loaded and two
outs, James stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With two strikes on him, James lofted a ball into short right field. It landed
out of the reach of the fielders and Ryan Lee, who was on third base, raced
home with the winning run, setting off a celebration.
players not only were Section 5 champions, but the 7-6, extra-inning triumph
July 17 at Aptos Junior High made them the first team in their league's 50-plus
year history to claim such a crown.
"It's hard to believe that we're
the first team in Serra's history to win a section championship," said manager
Mike Lee. "We're not a big league [just over 200 registered players], but we
put together a roster of 12 kids that love playing baseball and have a blast
while they're doing it."
For Serra, which captured District 44's
13-team, double-elimination tournament with five straight victories, taking the
Section 5 title was much more difficult.
Serra won its section opener,
beating District 59 champion Gilroy 11-2, as Malcolm Hsu and winning pitcher
Naoto Nataoka combined on a 6-hitter. Justin Walker and Matt Merino each had
Merino ripped a two-run double in the third, but the game
was 2-2 until Ryan Ohara's two-run single sparked a four-run uprising in the
fifth. Serra put the game out of reach with five more in the sixth, three on a
bases-clearing double by Ryan Lee.
Serra lost the next day 17-13 to
Los Gatos, the District 12 kingpin. Serra rallied from an 11-5 deficit with six
in the fifth to tie, only to see Los Gatos blow back in front with six in the
bottom of the inning.
In the elimination bracket on Tuesday against
host Aptos (District 39), Serra rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to win 8-7.
Blake Rogers' towering two-run homer, well beyond the fence in left-center
field, broke a 6-6 deadlock in the top of the sixth.
The Serra boys
played from behind again the next day against Los Gatos. Rogers and Los Gatos
hurler Mario Ricci pitched shutout ball for three innings, before Los Gatos
touched Rogers for two runs in the fourth. Serra answered with five and held on
for a 5-3 triumph, making one more game necessary in the double-elimination
"That was an incredible run by our kids," Lee said. "We
were forced to play five consecutive days, which made juggling our pitching a
bit of a challenge, but every player on our roster stepped up and played
With Rogers, Hsu, Nataoka and Walker having
exceeded pitch limits in the previous four days, Serra had to lean on other
players to pitch.
James stepped up to the challenge, allowing just one
run over the first three innings, a sacrifice fly in the top of the first.
Gilbert Murillo, who went 3 for 3 in the earlier loss to Los Gatos and
pitched out of a sixth-inning, bases loaded jam to earn the save the day
before, smashed a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to put Serra in
Los Gatos regained the lead with two runs in the fourth and
stretched it to 6-2 with three more in the fifth. Serra pitcher Roy Chang
settled down to retire the final two batters of the inning on fly balls to
As in the two previous games, Serra rallied to extend
their season. Hsu started what would be a four-run fifth with a double. Rogers
singled and Murillo walked, loading the bases. R. Lee then stroked a hit down
the left field line that knocked in Hsu and Rogers and made the score 6-4.
Merino, who had six hits in the first two games and a key two-run double
against Aptos, came through again, tying the game with a drive to right that
plated Murillo and Kataoka, who was pinch-running for Lee.
dodged a bullet in the top of the sixth, when Chang's snow-cone catch along the
foul line near the right field corner ended a bases-loaded threat.
Serra did not score in the sixth either, sending the game to extra innings. Los
Gatos threatened again in the seventh, but Murillo struck out two batters,
including one to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Lee and
Merino walked and, after two outs, Jacob Tang singled to load the bases and set
the stage for James.
"We beat a very good Los Gatos team two out of
three games," M. Lee said. "I couldn't be prouder of these kids. They'll all go
on to bigger and better things in their lives, but I hope they look back fondly
on this time and what they were able to accomplish. It's something they should
be extremely proud of."
The Serra all-stars are not finished yet. They
will compete against six other section champions in the Northern California
Division Tournament, beginning July 26 in Tuolomne.
first-round match-up will be Petaluma National on 3 p.m. Saturday. Win or lose,
Serra will return to Jerry Whitehead Field on Sunday against either Canyon
Creek of San Ramon or Woodcreek of Roseville. Teams from Nevada City, Tracy and
Porterville also are in the divisional tourney.
With a win Saturday,
Serra will play at noon. A loss will land Serra in a 3 p.m. elimination