As “Seven Nation Army” sang early from the dugout, it was clear San Mateo American was on the verge of a big day.
American delivered a 14-8 win over rival San Mateo National in the District 52 Majors Tournament Sunday at Red Morton Park. Spurred by chanting their favorite rally song — the infamous guitar melody from The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” — American jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first. After a seesaw battle through the middle innings, American recaptured the lead in the fourth before breaking it open with a magic number seven-run rally in the fifth.
With its second win in as many days — American downed Hillsborough 8-7 in Saturday’s tourney opener — American advances through the winners’ bracket to face powerhouse Pacifica American Wednesday.
“That’s going to be the one to be at,” San Mateo American manager Ken Clayton said.
With Pacifica American outscoring its first two opponents in the District 52 bracket 46-1 while clubbing 13 home runs, Wednesday’s game stands to be a tall test for San Mateo American.
However, in addition to demonstrating a flare for the dramatic, San Mateo American showed it can bring some thunder of its own. Sunday, American’s Justice Daly was 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs while batting in a run in each of his four plate appearances. His solo shot in the third inning was a booming shot clearing the left-field fence of Mitchell Field by approximately 50 feet. Dominic Meza added a three-run opposite-field homer in the fifth while totaling five RBIs on the day. And Saturday, Luke Bottari was 2 for 4 with a double and a home run.
Bottari was the hero on the mound Sunday as the right-hander earned the win with 3 1/3 innings of relief. He tabbed three shutout innings before getting touched for a run in the sixth when the score was out of reach.
“[Bottari] is a great kid,” Coach Clayton said. “Good mind-set, doesn’t get shaken up at all. He has a great demeanor on the field and is just a great player altogether.”
In addition to being a standout pitcher for his Cubs team during the San Mateo Little League season, Bottari is a rotation regular for several travel teams, including Firebirds Youth Baseball — a team also managed by Coach Clayton — which played in Cooperstown, New York last summer.
With the American squad, Bottari has the benefit of being paired up with his old Firebirds battery mate, Tyler Moniz-Whitton. The tandem immediately established control of the game Sunday as Bottari entered in the fourth to record the only 1-2-3 inning of the game for either team.
“They’re kind of the duo to have out there,” Coach Clayton said.
American jumped out to a three-run lead in the first. Facing National starting pitcher Connor Jerkovich, American came out crowding the plate. And the strategy paid off. Kannon Clayton and Chad Cliff led off by drawing back-to-back walks. Jack Hagerman followed with a gem of a bunt single to load the bases. Daly got American on the board with a sacrifice fly to score Kannon Clayton. Then Meza delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single to plate Cliff and Hagerman, giving American a 3-0 lead.
Jerkovich found his release point and settled in from there though, and National came roaring back in the second. Facing American starter Daly, National sent 11 batters to the plate amid a five-run inning. Jerkovich led off with a single, followed by a walk to Antonio Balistrano and a single by Tyler Larrigue to load the bases. Tory Lewis and J.D. Carson produced back-to-back RBI singles before Logan Azem drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game 3-3. Lewis crossed the plate with the go-ahead run on a throwing error. Then Jerkovich drew a bases-loaded walk on four pitches to force home Carson, giving National a 5-3 lead.
National was riding high after the seesaw rally, but not too high.
“We didn’t want to get big-headed because we knew they had a lot of good pitchers,” Jerkovich said. “But they were our rivals, so we were excited.”
In the third, Daly crushed a solo bomb to close National’s lead to 5-4. American had a good chance to go large by loading the bases with one out, but National produced a rally-killer by pegging a runner at home on an attempt to score on a would-be wild pitch. National went on to escape with the lead in tact.
The lead didn’t last much longer though.
In the fourth, American scored three runs by virtue of one hit — a leadoff double by Kannon Clayton — to retake the lead. Jace Jeremiah then reached on an infield error, which saw Kannon Clayton score the tying run on the second error of the play with an errant throw. Hagerman walked and Bottari was hit by a pitch before American grinded out a pair of runs with two RBI groundouts by Daly and Tristan Dewing, giving American a 7-5 lead.
“We had very aggressive base-running,” Coach Clayton said. “We got thrown out a couple times pushing the envelope … but finally started putting the ball into play.”
American broke it open in the fifth, sending 10 batters to the plate amid a seven-run rally. Moniz-Whitton led off with a single but was thrown out trying to advance to third on Jason Mangini’s double. With two outs, Jeremiah reached on a throwing error to plate Sylvestri. After a Hagerman single, Jeremiah scored on a wild pitch. Bottari singled home Hagerman. Daly doubled home Bottari. After a Dewing walk, Meza drilled a three-run homer to right-center to give American a 14-5 lead.
National rallied for three runs in its final at bat. After back-to-back one-out singles by Anthony Paolinelli and Azem, cleanup hitter Chris Mok launched a three-run home run to left field to cap the day’s scoring.
The rivals collided on the second day of the double-elimination tourney by virtue of each executing dramatic wins Saturday. In fact, with both teams playing at the same time — San Mateo National versus Pacifica National and San Mateo American versus Hillsborough — the two games were each deadlocked 6-6 simultaneously in the late innings.
After American jumped out to a 6-2 lead Saturday on Kiwanis Field, Hillsborough tied it up on one swing when Chase Funkhouser launched an opposite-field grand slam with a sweet left-handed backspin over the left-field fence. American answered back with two runs in the fifth though, producing RBI singles by Clayton and Jeremiah; then American was able to hold off a sixth-inning Hillsborough surge to win it 8-7.
National trailed the whole way in its Saturday matchup with Pacifica. Entering its final at-bat in the bottom of the sixth trailing 6-5, National rallied for a pair of runs, with an RBI single by Azem to tie it before Jerkovich produced an RBI single for the walk-off win.
“[Jerkovich] hit a hard groundball to second base. It reached the outfield and we knew we won,” National’s Paolinelli said. “We were really happy.”
National and American played a scrimmage game June 22 previous to the District 52 tournament. American prevailed in the scrimmage 3-0.