YOUNTVILLE — The postgame celebration may need some work, but that’s understandable.
The PenCities Joe DiMaggio team had never reveled in a state championship — that is, until Monday, as manager John Rally’s team finished off the season with its 13th straight victory in the 53rd annual Joe D State Tournament at Cleve Borman Field.
“It was awesome,” PenCities catcher Zach Teijeiro said. “The first time winning a championship, you always plan for it as a kid … and in the moment, it’s just elation.”
PenCities finished off the championship with a bit of a Joe D classic, a 1-0 win over River City-Sacramento. With three different pitchers combining on the two-hit shutout, left-hander Jack Warren finished off the save by recording a swinging strikeout of Colton Sales to end it.
Warren was a bit reluctant in celebrating as Teijeiro mauled him in the middle of the diamond, but PenCities sent in some water-bottle reinforcements to drench the duo before Warren was eventually tackled to the ground.
It was the fourth win of the tournament for PenCities, and the second in the best-of-three championship series. After sweeping through the single-elimination stage with an 8-3 win over the San Francisco Barbarians Saturday, followed by a 7-0 win over Half Moon Bay Sunday morning, PenCities wrestled a 4-3 win from River City in the championship series opener Sunday afternoon.
“It took a while for us to feel like we were a unit,” said Rally, whose team overcame a slow start this summer to go undefeated through July and August. “And once that happened, it was going to be tough to stop us.”
A modern-day pitching duel
There wasn’t much offense to speak of Monday. The two teams combined for just five hits, with River City left-hander Michael Potter pitching just good enough to lose, striking out 10 in the complete-game loss.
“In the three years he’s played for me … this is the best he’s ever thrown,” River City manager Doug Hughes said.
PenCities, as it did throughout the tournament, countered with an approach by committee. The team used eight different pitchers in the four games, with none of them working over four innings in one stretch.
Matthew Mukai earned the win Monday as PenCities’ starter. The right-hander cruised through four innings, tossing 3 1/3 innings of no-hit ball before River City cleanup hitter JD Madrigal broke up the no-no with a line-drive single. It was the only hit Mukai surrendered on the day. Victor entered to pitch the fifth, yielding a hit to designated hitter Matt Jernigan. Warren entered to start the sixth and set down six straight batters to earn the save.
Warren earned the Pete Franceschi Most Valuable Player Award for the tournament. And while he pitched well in three appearances — totaling five innings, while allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits — it was his performance at the plate that earned him the honor.
The left-handed swinging Warren — who recently graduated San Mateo High School and is set to play Division III baseball at Caltech — hit safely in all four games, going 5 for 10 with two doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He was 1 for 3 Monday, though his sixth-inning double on a middle-in slider from Potter didn’t figure in the scoring.
Manufacturing just enough offense
It may have been one of just three hits PenCities managed off Potter in the game. The other two, however, came amid a run-scoring rally in the third inning.
“Even when we did get out, everyone seemed to have a quality at-bat,” Warren said.
PenCities added two sacrifices in the inning. Mitch Nabeta led off the frame with the game’s first hit, a line-drive single to right. No. 9 hitter Nikhil Godbole followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Nabeta to second. Tommy Ozawa then affected the game with his leadoff speed, topping one past the pitcher toward the second baseman Madrigal, who charged onto the infield grass. But Ozawa beat the throw on a bang-bang play at first to put runners at the corners.
Then Elijah Shih stepped to the plate. After getting the bunt sign on the first pitch, Shih stabbed at a fastball on a safety squeeze and came up empty. He said he again got the bunt sign on the following pitch but opted to take matters into his own hands.
“[The coach] gave me the bunt sign again, but I was thinking: ‘No, he’s throwing it straight to me now,’” Shih said. “‘So, I should just swing for it.’”
Shih swung away and still managed to produce the sacrifice, lifting a fly ball to right field deep enough for Nabeta to score from third with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Shih actually started the tournament hitting in the No. 9 spot the first two games. But Rally juggled his lineup in an attempt to get more production out of the middle of his order.
“We moved him up primarily because we were having trouble at our 3-spot,” Ralley said. “And Elijah had two really good games in the 9-hole, so it gave us the confidence to move him up.”
River City’s Peninsula ties
The River City Outlaws may be a North Bay League team, but the manager is a Pacifica native and a 1987 graduate of Terra Nova.
Doug Hughes’ father Mike Hughes — who managed two Pacifica Joe D teams to state championships in 2004 and 2006 — now serves as the Joe D President. Doug’s brother Dan Hughes, a former Joe D and high school coach in the Napa area, served as the public address announcer for this year’s tournament.
After coaching at Sheldon High School-Sacramento for eight years, Doug Hughes now coaches at Cordova-Rancho Cordova. He founded the River City Outlaws in 2009 when his oldest son, Doug Jr., played for the team.
“And we just built it from there,” Hughes said. “I consider them all my kids.”
While the title marks the first under the PenCities banner, the area the team encompasses — San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont and Redwood Shores — has one previous Joe D championship to its credit. That came in 1991 when manager Kenny Ray’s Belmont-Redwood Shores won the whole enchilada.
River City’s Ian Offord was named the tournament’s MVP Pitcher. Mukai, Teijeiro, Kilmer Sanchez and Sam Freeman were named to the all-tournament team for PenCities.