HEALDSBURG — The sun set on the Nor Cal tourney — literally — and San Carlos turned it into championship gold.
With the sunset in the twilight sky shredding across the infield at Healdsburg’s Recreation Park, both San Carlos’ and Los Altos’ first basemen were looking directly into the blinding western skyline through the first three innings of the Northern California Division II Juniors All-Stars Tournament.
San Carlos used it to their advantage, rallying for three runs on four errors in the bottom of the second inning en route to knocking off Los Altos 8-1 in Thursday’s championship game to capture the Nor Cal banner.
“It was pretty brutal,” San Carlos’ Tate Cohen said. “We had a play earlier where [San Carlos first baseman Rocco Loskutoff] would have had a double play we would usually catch, but the sun was just a huge factor there and made a big difference.”
San Carlos starting pitcher Logan Mathias was the shining star of the championship stage. The right-hander dominated to earn his second straight complete-game victory of the tourney, and his third CG of the summer.
Mathias allowed one run on five hits and a walk, while striking out four. But the two double plays he was involved in — both after the sun went down — loomed largest of all, including a game-ender on a soft liner back to the mound. Mathias gloved it and threw behind the Los Altos runner at first base for a game-ending double play.
“Best possible way the game could have ended,” catcher Luke Robinson said. “Back to our pitcher — so hyped.”
The double play earned Mathias his rightful place at the bottom of the San Carlos dog pile.
“It just happened in the moment,” Mathias said. “Caught it, threw it first, double play, everybody dog-piled on me.”
San Carlos notched two big hits in the three-run second, including an RBI single by Gavin Reynick. In the third, San Carlos added two runs when Reid Cole singled home Robinson, then came all the way around to score on two errors on the play, including a throw to the plate that the Los Altos catcher lost in the sun.
In the fourth, Clayton Magner produced and insurance run with an RBI single. In the sixth, Robinson scored the final run of the night on a wild pitch.
Mathias did the rest, finding his strikeout stuff as the evening wore on. He finished the fifth inning with back-to-back punch-outs, and notched another strikeout in the sixth.
“I just threw a lot more curveballs; they couldn’t hit it,” Mathias said. “I threw strikes, I did my job, and my defense did theirs.”
Then the right-hander started a momentous double play to end the sixth.
A soft comebacker to the mound saw Mathias turn and wait for the shortstop Aidan Armando to get to the bag. By the time Armando got there, the Los Altos runner was already barreling down, so he sidestepped across the second-base bag and went airborne to get the throw to first, releasing the ball at the apex of his leap.
“I was juiced,” Armando said. “I wanted the ball so much. And when that chance came, Logan picked it up and I was like — this is going to happen. He throws it, and I prayed to get that ball there, and it got there. And it was electric.”
Cole and Mathias turned in back-to-back CGs to close out the tournament. Cole went the distance in Tuesday’s 8-6 win over Porterville.
“We have a lot of kids who can throw, and our pitching really dominated the whole way through,” San Carlos manager Steve Magner said. “Logan, Reid, Aidan really leading the charge, and then other guys coming in … they all contributed. But they find ways to win.”
San Carlos’ third banner of the summer — after winning the District 52 and Section 3 titles — will be their last as there is no West Zone Regional or Junior League World Series this year. Ordinarily there is, but the Juniors All-Stars season was limited to Nor Cal play this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re just a bunch of friends from San Carlos chasing big dreams,” Armando said. “It’s every kid’s dream to go to the Little League World Series. Unfortunately, we can’t go there but we made a pretty good run. I’ll take it. I love playing with this group of boys.”