Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Pacifica American’s Jordan Salgado capped a seven-run rally in the first inning with a booming grand slam to center field.
SAN JOSE — It was a most surreal day for Pacifica American.
On the diamond, it was business as usual as the Section 3 champs dominated all facets of the game en route to a 12-0 win over Mill Valley in Tuesday’s Little League All-Star Division 2 winners’ bracket semifinal.
Prior to the game, however, with the recent death of the grandmother of first baseman Andrew Harkness, the Pacifica American team attended the funeral of Agnes Harkness. After attending the 11 a.m. service at St. Peter’s Church in Pacifica — in full uniform, as per the request of the Harkness family — the team dispatched immediately to San Jose’s Cambrian Park for a 2:30 first pitch.
As a dedication to the Harkness family, Pacifica put forth a flawless team effort. With Andrew Harkness missing from the lineup, Pacifica’s biggest swing of the bat came from his replacement, Jordan Salgado, who capped a seven-run rally in the first inning with a booming grand slam to center field.
In the third, sparked by a leadoff single by Spencer Karalius, Pacifica rallied for five more runs in the frame and went on to win via mercy rule after the requisite four innings of play.
“This win is for [Andrew Harkness and his mother Linda] and the whole family,” Pacifica manager Steve Falk said. “Because it’s a small community … we just all pull together. It’s a tough time, even for the kids. Agnes was such a wonderful person and so loving to all the kids. So, it was a pretty tough day today.”
Pacifica American responded with a focused performance and a tremendous offensive showing in the first inning. By the time the first seven players batted in the inning, Pacifica held a 7-0 lead. After Cruise Thompson worked a full count to draw a leadoff walk, Elijah Ricks drilled an opposite-field line drive for his 11th home run in as many postseason games. Christian Falk followed with a solo blast. Pacifica then loaded the bases on a walk to Chris Rodriguez and back-to-back singles by Justice Turner and Nate Azzopardi.
Then Salgado connected with a first-pitch offering and crushed it over the center-field wall for his first home run of the Division 2 tournament. It is his fifth overall homer in just 19 at-bats on the postseason. However, the absence of Harkness left Pacifica without its lone middle-of-the-order left-handed bat.
“It changed our lineup a lot,” Salgado said. “He was one of our biggest hitters.”
Pacifica’s only other left-hander, leadoff hitter Thompson, was nails in the field by filling in at first base for Harkness. What’s most impressive about Thompson’s performance is he has never played first base in his life, he said. Thompson served two innings at first and two innings at third base.
In the fourth inning, the left-handed throwing Thompson got tested at the hot corner with an absolute rocket off the bat of Mill Valley’s Jesse Gassman. By sheer reaction, he had the wherewithal to stay in front of it, get a glove on it to knock it down then gather and throw out Gassman.
“[Thompson] said he didn’t even see it,” Pacifica shortstop Christian Falk said. “He said he just stuck his glove out and it hit his glove.”
With their third shutout of the postseason, Pacifica’s pitchers were impressive as well. Starting pitcher Ricks worked two innings. The right-hander dominated with a hard-and-heavy fastball, allowing one hit while hitting two batsmen and striking out five.
After warming up in the third inning, Ricks departed with a neck cramp before throwing a pitch. He remained in the game to play first base, giving way to reliever Rodriguez, who kept the shutout in tact with help from Turner’s center-field defense. Mill Valley tabbed three singles in the third. After back-to-back knocks by Dylan Reed and Jimmy McCormack, Jake Gassman scorched a two-out single to center. Reed attempted to score on the play, but Turner gunned him down at the plate to retire the side.
Rodriguez set down the side in the order in the fourth to end it.
The versatility of Pacifica’s players continues to prove invaluable. The game was Turner’s first of the tournament in center field. And Thompson, in addition to never having played first base, also had never played third base, according to Coach Falk.
“I don’t think it bothers them at all,” Coach Falk said. “When they get their chance, they’re more than willing to go anywhere on the field.”
Meanwhile, second baseman Tyler Shaw continues to prove rock solid over the middle. In the first inning, Shaw turned a difficult squib over the mound into a routine play by charging the ball then setting his feet to play the short-hop in textbook fashion.
And while Pacifica is hitting .483 with 41 home runs on the postseason, perhaps the team’s most impressive singular statistic through 11 games is the defense having committed just five errors.
“At this point it’s just their baseball instincts,” Coach Falk said. “They want the ball hit to them … and when you have a team full of players that want the ball, it’s a no-brainer to coach. I can sit on my bucket and call pitches.”
With the win, Pacifica advances to Thursday’s Division 2 championship round with thoroughfare to the Northwest Regional — one step from the Little League World Series — on the line. First pitch at Cambrian Park is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Andrew Harkness will rejoin the team Thursday, according to Coach Falk.
“This is his second family,” Coach Falk said. “And I can tell you the kids miss him like crazy.”