Photo courtesy of Christopher Harte
San Mateo American starting pitcher Zach Harte battled through four innings of work during his team's 7-2 win over San Mateo National in the championship game of the District 52 Minors Superbowl.
Zach Harte just battled, and battled, and battled some more.
San Mateo American’s starting pitcher turned in a gutty performance in Tuesday’s District 52 Minors Superbowl Tournament championship game. Although Harte took a no-decision, he set the stage for his team’s 7-2 victory over San Mateo National in a rematch of last year’s championship game.
It is the second straight year American has prevailed.
“These boys put in a lot of hard work and dedication,” American manager Nick Corey said. “They deserve it.”
Harte worked four innings to keep it close. Then in the bottom of the fifth inning, American broke open a 2-2 tie with a five-run rally. Kevin Sanchez plated the go-ahead run, scoring from second base on a heads-up play after an infield error.
Sanchez sparked the rally with a one-out single to right. After he advanced to second on a passed ball and Alan Tanelieu walked, Lorenzo Vasquez hit a two-out grounder on the infield. The grounder was bobbled which led to confusion on the ensuing throw to first, and Sanchez reacted to Corey’s direction from the third-base coach’s box by streaking home to give American a 3-2 lead.
“My coach told me the ball dropped; then I got excited that we scored,” Sanchez said.
Both starting pitchers showed up with championship-caliber stuff. National starter Frankie Attard went four innings, cruising through the first two frames before yielding single runs in each the third and fourth.
“He’s an outstanding player,” National manager Gavin Sierra said. “He’s a great pitcher — hits his spots. That kid’s been coming up for us really big.”
National came out swinging in the first inning to take an early lead. Jackson Sierra drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Then Jake Ratcliffe promptly delivered a line shot over the third-base bag for an RBI double, giving National a 1-0 lead.
Harte quickly overcame his early bout of wildness though, retiring the next three National batters in order to strand Ratcliffe at third base.
In the third inning, Harte once again got into hot water. But American’s ace right-hander soldiered through a bases-loaded jam with some serious strikeout stuff — and a sweet play by his shortstop Joey Sinclair. National’s Dylan Glass led of the inning with a booming shot high off the left-field fence for a double. Troy Condon then singled on a Texas Leaguer to left to put runners at first and second.
Harte buckled down though, striking out two consecutive National batters. With the dangerous Ratcliffe hitting an infield pop-up, it looked as though American was out of the inning. But the ball was dropped for an error to load the bases. So, Sinclair responded by turning in the play of the game on a cue shot past the pitcher’s mound off the bat of Attard. Sinclair charged hard on the ball, then had to dive to his left when the bounder caught a divot. Sinclair snowconed it; then from his knees he shot-putted a throw to second to peg Ratcliffe on a bang-bang play to end the inning.
American’s offense then got on the board in each of the next two innings. Each run plated by way of a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the third, American drew three walks to load the bases. Then on a wild pitch that didn’t get all too far past National’s catcher, Tanelieu raced home to score the tying run. In the fourth, American’s Chris Carias led off with an infield single. After Damian Barazza switched places with him at first on a fielder’s choice, Eric Myers doubled to left to move Barazza to third. Then with a two-strike count on Trent Corey, the next pitch went to the backstop to allow Barraza to score, giving American a 2-1 lead.
National came right back to tie it off American’s bullpen in the fifth though. With right-hander Trent Corey on in relief, Glass led off by crushing his second double of the game. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and later scored on an infield single by Jackson Sierra.
“Every game that we’ve played [in the tournament] was really close,” Gavin Sierra said. “That’s probably the one thing about this [team]. The games that we’ve played have been really close and I was pretty surprised we were able to stay so close with this team. Because they had the first bye so they had a lot of pitchers.”
Of the three games National won through the tourney bracket, two were one-run wins. It won by scores of 10-9 over Belmont-Redwood Shores, 6-3 over Pacifica American and 4-3 over Hillsborough.
American ran away with the championship game in their final at-bat though. After Sanchez scored the go-ahead run, American loaded the bases. Sinclair then came up with a clutch two-RBI single to score Tanelieu and Vasquez.
“It was the first pitch of the at-bat,” Sinclair said. “It was right down the middle at the perfect speed. I swung at it and I barreled it up. I hit it opposite field and two runs came in.”
Samuel Ayeung and Sinclair later came around to score on a pair on two more National errors.
With American winning back-to-back titles, Sinclair enjoyed his second straight Superbowl championship. For Harte, however, it was his first. Last season he was elected to the All-Star team, but could not play because of a family vacation to Seattle.
“I was sad,” Harte said. “I had to go to Seattle. We had fun. We saw a Phillies vs. Mariners game.”
But which was better, the Mariners game or the Superbowl?
“Probably this one,” Harte said. “We actually got to play in this one.”