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Pac Am into West final
August 09, 2014, 05:00 AM By Terry Bernal Daily Journal

Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Pacifica American’s Jordan Salgado slides home with the lone run of the game on a second-inning RBI single by Spencer Karalius. Pacifica’s 1-0 win is the first such score in West Regional play since 2007.

Pacifica American’s Elijah Ricks pitched a complete game, allowing just two hits while striking out eight.

SAN BERNARDINO — For the second consecutive year, District 52 will have a team in the West Regional championship game.

Pacifica American rode a masterful pitching gem from right-hander Elijah Ricks to a 1-0 win over Hawaii state champion Honolulu in Friday’s West Regional semifinal at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino.

Ricks went the distance, setting down the first 12 batters he faced. He went on to strike out eight against no walks and even showed a flair for the dramatic. With the opposition’s best chance coming in their final at-bat, Ricks escaped a two-out jam with runners at second and third by inducing a soft comebacker off the bat of Honolulu No. 3 hitter Dante Park to end it.

Pacifica manager Steve Falk said it was one of the best games he’s ever seen the 12-year-old pitch.

“It’s up there pretty high.” Falk said. “I’ve seen him throw like this a couple times against a regular Little League team. But against a quality team like Hawaii, it’s one I’ll remember for awhile.”

With the win, Pacifica advances to Saturday’s championship game against Nevada champ Mountain Ridge to determine thoroughfare to the Little League World Series. The two met earlier in the tournament, with Mountain Ridge triumphing 13-2 on Aug. 5 during pool play. With a 5-1 win over Southern California in Friday’s other semifinal game, Mountain Ridge is currently the only undefeated team left in regional play.

However, it was just one year ago when Belmont-Redwood Shores took an undefeated tourney record into the championship game, only to fall 9-0 to Southern California champ Eastlake.

With his team entering into Friday’s game as the underdog No. 4 seed, Falk gave a pointed motivational speech. That speech was pointed at Williamsport, Pennsylvania and the Little League World Series.

“‘We’re not packing to go home tomorrow. We’re in this thing,’” Falk said of the message conveyed in the speech. “‘Why not us?’ And they rallied around each other today.”

Pacifica rallied with dominant pitching, clutch defense and just enough offense. It was a tremendous pitchers’ duel between Ricks and Honolulu right-hander Caleb Markwith. Both pitchers threw complete games. And while Ricks surrendered two clean singles, Markwith gave up just one hit; and an argument can be made the lone single off the bat of Spencer Karalius should have been an error.

Karalius’ second-inning swing of the bat produced the lone run of the game. Pacifica set the table with one out on back-to-back walks by Chris Rodriguez and Andrew Harkness. Nate Azzopardi followed with a strikeout, but he battled for 11 pitches, at one point fouling off five straight offerings from Markwith. Karalius followed and fell behind in the count 1-2, but shot a hard grounder towards first base which glanced off the fielder’s glove and into right field, allowing pinch runner Jordan Salgado to score from second base.

“We were just trying to get guys on and put a little pressure on [Markwith],” Falk said. “Either get the big hit or put the ball in play and just try to get them to make a mistake. I told them before the game, we just need to push one or two across, give Elijah a little breathing room, and see what we can do.”

Ricks did the rest, with a little help from the sterling second base defense of Tyler Shaw. Through its three previous games in the tournament, Pacifica committed 10 errors. Friday, not only did the defense play an errorless game, but Shaw came through with several key plays, the highlight of which was a diving catch in the fifth rob Maxx Muramoto of extra bases and keep a 1-2-3 inning in tact — of which, Ricks had four in the game.

“I thought that was a really good play,” Pacifica third baseman Chris Rodriguez said. “I thought that ball was getting through, and if it did it would have been a double and would have gotten a rally going. It probably saved a run.”

Pacifica got one other previous scare in the fourth inning on a rocket to right field off the bat of Aaron Tom. It was a deep shot down the line, but Salgado was playing him perfectly. The reason Salgado was positioned so well was because prior to the pitch, Pacifica coach Dave Shaw repositioned his outfield defense to shade towards right field against the right-handed hitting Tom.

Through the first five innings, Ricks retired 15 of 16 batters. The only blemish through that stretch was a two-out bloop single off the bat of the Park in the fifth to break up Ricks’ perfect game.

The right-hander was nails to the strike zone. He got strike-one on the first seven batters he faced. He persevered in the first inning against Honolulu’s leadoff hitter Tom, winning a nine-pitch battle by inducing a groundout to shortstop Christian Falk. After that, through the first four innings, Ricks held every batter he faced to five or less pitches. With an 85-pitch limit on Little League pitchers, his efficiency early on loomed large. He totaled 74 pitches in the game.

“He wasn’t coming out,” Falk said. “Once he went over 20 pitches, he’s not available for tomorrow. So, he was our guy. He was it. I told him before the game, ‘You’re our guy. Try to get in a groove early.’ And he did.”

Not since 2007 has there been a 1-0 game in West Regional play, when Nevada state champ Green Valley topped Hawaii’s Waipio in pool play. It is the first 1-0 game in a semifinal game since the inception of the round-robin format in 2001.



Tags: pacifica, ricks, right, first, little, through,

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