For the third consecutive year, the current Pacifica American Majors All-Stars will be playing for a section championship.
Pacifica rolled to two straight wins to open the Section 3 Little League All-Stars Baseball Tournament at Fremont’s Stratford School. In Saturday’s opener, Pacifica homered five times in five innings to triumph 11-3 over San Lorenzo. Sunday, Pacifica hammered out 13 hits to pin a 14-4 mercy-rule win on Mission-San Jose.
The top three hitters in Pacifica’s batting order — Cruise Thompson, Elijah Ricks and Christian Falk — totaled 17 hits through the two games, going 17 for 22 while accounting for 15 runs.
With Sunday’s win, Pacifica advances to the championship round. First pitch Tuesday at Stratford School is scheduled for 5:30.
For all that’s been made of the offensive juggernaut that is the Pacifica batting order, the defensively versatile squad committed just one error throughout the two section playoff games. Pacifica manager Steve Falk does not take defense for granted. At any given two-hour practice, Pacifica spends the first hour running defense drills. And the ability for players to move all over the diamond helps spur Pacifica’s defensive excellence.
“If you hit, you’re going to play. That’s the mindset of most coaches,” Coach Falk said. “But our guys, they know if you’re not pulling your weight defensively, there’s going to be someone else to step in.”
The pitching depth is in prime form as well. With a constant rotation of pitchers to avoid running up pitch counts, all of Pacifica’s arms are available for Tuesday’s game. Sunday, the magic pitch-count number was 35, after which pitchers, by rule, are not allowed to pitch for two days.
“We kept everybody under 35,” Coach Falk said.
Saturday, Chris Rodriguez earned the win, firing 2 2/3 innings. The right-hander surrendered two runs on two hits while striking out six. The bullpen of Ricks, Thompson and Andrew Harkness combined for 3 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, with the southpaw Thompson earning the save.
When Rodriguez isn’t pitching, he anchors the hot corner. With Pacifica touting three other pitching arms with ace stuff, Rodriguez is considered the No. 4 pitcher in the rotation. That Coach Falk prefers to start other pitchers in big games has everything to do with Rodriguez’s third-base defense, though, as opposed to any potential drawback to his taking the mound.
“He’s got ace stuff,” Coach Falk said. “But he’s such a good defender I can put him at third base and forget about him.”
Sunday, Ricks earned the win while managing to post the same pitching line as Rodriguez had the day before. Ricks went 2 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out six. Thompson worked two innings to earn the save.
Ricks didn’t show such dominance in the District 52 Tournament, instead tending toward throwing in-game batting practice. But the right-hander was nails through two appearances over the weekend, also throwing one inning of shutout relief Saturday.
“Ricks pitched fantastic all year,” Coach Falk said. “The way he threw [over the weekend], he’s worked out some of the mechanics and he’s back to where he was during the season.”
Tuesday, Pacifica will play the winner of Monday’s losers’ bracket matchup between Mission and San Lorenzo. Either team would have to defeat Pacifica twice to advance to the Northern California playoffs. As 10-year-olds in 2012, Pacifica captured the Section 3 title. Last season in the 10-11-year-old section tourney, Pacifica fell to Danville in the championship game.
In other Section 3 action, the 10-11-year-old tournament saw San Mateo National fall to the losers’ bracket Sunday. National won Saturday’s opener 10-0 over Mission San Jose, but fell Sunday to Tassajara Valley, 9-8. National plays an elimination game Monday, with the winner advancing to Tuesday’s championship round at Union City’s Veteran’s Park.
In the Section 3 Minors tourney, San Mateo American prevailed 7-3 over San Lorenzo Saturday at Fremont’s Vallejo Mills School. American sees second-round action Monday against Canyon Creek at 5:30 p.m.