PORTOLA VALLEY — Belmont-Redwood Shores has a knack for playing them close. Low-scoring baseball is the name of the game, though, with a buzz saw like Dylan Pon on the mound.
Pon was nothing short of brilliant in Friday’s 5-1 win over Foster City in the District 52 Little League All-Star 10-11s Tournament at Ford Field to propel Belmont-Redwood Shores into the elimination bracket semifinals. The right-hander allowed just one unearned run on one hit, while setting down the last eight batters he faced to record the complete-game victory.
“I was pretty nervous at the beginning,” Pon said. “All I had to do is be consistent and pound the strike zone.”
Three Foster City hurlers — Samuel Ruiz, Neel Sardesai and Tyce Copus — were up for a pitching duel, though, combining to strand eight BRS runners throughout to keep the score tied 1-1 heading into the sixth inning. But BRS sent nine batters to the plate in its final at-bat, rallying for four runs to take control of the game.
Tyce Copus took the hard-luck loss for Foster City, allowing four runs, all unearned. The right-hander should have gotten out of the sixth inning unscathed. He retired the first two BRS batters of the inning. Then after he issued back-to-back walks to Conner Schaffer and Mikey Nishikawa, BRS No. 9 hitter Jonathan Fong reached on an infield error to load the bases.
Then BRS leadoff hitter Aidan O’Driscoll cashed in, shooting a two-run single over the second baseman’s head to give his team a 3-1 lead. Two more runs scored later in the inning when Chris Ganim reached on an infield error.
“The bottom of the order did their job and turned the lineup over,” Belmont-Redwood Shores manager Steve O’Driscoll said. “And the top of the order … came up and put the ball in play.”
Pon did the rest, setting down the side in order in the bottom of the sixth. Not only did he hold Foster City to one hit, that second-inning single off the bat of Sardesai was one of just two times Pon let the ball out of the infield. He finished the night with seven strikeouts, six groundouts, three infield pop-outs, one fly out to left field to start the third and got the strangest of outs on the base paths later in that inning.
BRS took the lead in the top of the third on an RBI double by Ganim to score Aidan O’Driscoll. On the play, Foster City executed an effective relay play to throw behind the other runner, Pon, at third for the out.
Foster City then tied it up in the bottom of the inning without the benefit of a hit. Tyce Copus reached on an infield error. Ruiz followed and also reached on an error to put runners at first and third, but Ruiz kept the play alive with his legs. As the throw went back to Pon on the mound, Ruiz took off running for second.
It was the second time Foster City tried the play in the District 52 tournament. Both times it was effective, according to manager Mark Copus.
“It’s something we work on,” Mark Copus said. “Samuel is probably one of the most aggressive at it.”
The play caught Pon off guard. He had his back to Ruiz when he heard his coaches shouting to look toward second base. He turned and saw Ruiz was about halfway to second and, admittedly, the play surprised him.
“Yes, it did,” Pon said. “I was stunned.”
The surprise caused Pon to throw errantly into center field, allowing Tyce Copus to score from third. But the BRS defense didn’t quit on the play, and ultimately threw out Ruiz as he attempted to advance to third base.
Pon’s reaction to that part of the play?
“Thank, you defense,” Pon said.
It was Tyce Copus at shortstop who turned in the defensive play of the game, though, robbing BRS cleanup hitter Ryan Weiss of a hit in the third inning. With Ganim at second and two outs, Weiss batted a hard chopper into the hole between short and third. Tyce Copus ranged onto the outfield grass to make a smooth backhanded grab, then hummed a strong throw across the infield to hit first baseman Christian Louie with a perfect strike.
Friday marked the third straight elimination game for Foster City. The team posted a 3-2 record in the tournament, opening play in the elimination bracket with a 10-9 win over Redwood City West. They also won two lopsided games 10-0 over Redwood City East and 10-1 over San Carlos, and suffered a lopsided loss of their own 11-0 to Pacifica American.
“We’ve learned to win in different ways,” Mark Copus said. “That’s what’s been impressive, the character of this team to be able to withstand onslaughts like that.”
With the win, BRS advances to the elimination bracket semifinals to face Pacifica American Saturday at Ford Field at 1 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to the elimination bracket finals Sunday at Ford Field at 1 p.m. to take on the loser of the winners’ bracket finals between San Mateo American and Hillsborough.