PORTOLA VALLEY — Even last year, Hugo Guzman had Pacifica American’s number.
The San Mateo American right-hander didn’t earn a win against them last year — Pacifica beat San Mateo in both of Guzman’s starts through District 52 play in 2018 en route to a 9-10s championship — despite flashing the stuff to neutralize P-Town’s power-packed lineup.
This season was a different story, as Guzman climbed the mound to lead San Mateo American to a 5-1 victory over Pacifica America to claim the District 52 Little League All-Stars 10-11s championship Monday night at Ford Field.
“I just thought from last year, when they came back on us in the championship, this was payback a little bit,” Guzman said. “We just came back and fought.”
In last season’s 9-10s championship game, Guzman departed with a lead after five innings, and P-Town rallied for the win in the sixth. This factored into San Mateo American manager Jason Gordon’s decision to allow for his “little Tim Lincecum” to go the distance.
Guzman — with his signature slight stature and long hair flowing — delivered a gem, holding Pacifica to one run and one hit, while setting down the last 10 batters he faced. With two outs in the sixth and final inning, he surpassed the maximum 85 pitches in facing down No. 5 hitter Brody Hatch, but finished out the game by inducing a pop-up to second baseman Xavier Ruiz to set off the championship celebration.
“He deserved it,” Jason Gordon said. “We thought about pulling him. He got better at the end of the game … so we decided to let him finish.”
San Mateo utilized just two starting pitchers in the tournament, alternating between Guzman and left-hander Chase Gordon through five straight wins. In fact, the duo has combined to start all 11 of San Mateo’s District 52 games dating back to the start of last year.
“We had two horses,” Jason Gordon said. “We rode them the whole tournament.”
The only hit Pacifica managed Monday night came in the first inning. With a runner on second, Alex Wineinger blasted an RBI double that one-hopped the left-field wall to drive home Austin Snead. Guzman allowed just four base runners after that, including two walks, a hit batsman and a San Mateo fielding error.
In the top of the third inning, Guzman got some help from his defense. With one on and one out, Wineinger reached on an error, but Pacifica’s base runner got thrown out trying to go from first to third on an assist throw from center fielder Charlie Platz. With Wineinger moving to second base on the throw, San Mateo opted to intentionally walk cleanup hitter. It was the last base runner Pacifica would manage in the game.
Then in the bottom of the third, San Mateo broke through against Pacifica starting pitcher Jason Balmy. It was a frustrating inning for Balmy, who had all four of his pitches working, as San Mateo sent nine batters to the plate amid a five-run rally. Despite this, Balmy threw a first-pitch strike against eight of those hitters, and got on top with an 0-2 count facing the first three batters of the frame.
“There were two plays where it could have been two out with one on, and it didn’t work out,” Pacifica American manager Scott Nemes said. “But that’s baseball.”
Guzman led off the inning with a looping single into left field that somehow found its way just over the third-baseman’s outstretched glove. Xavier Ruiz followed with a walk. Chase Gordon tied it with an RBI single through the right side. Cleanup hitter Sean Tam then hit a comebacker that glanced off Balmy, and by the time the pitcher recovered and attempted to throw home, Ruiz was already on his way to scoring, and no outs were recorded on the play.
Donovan Friedland produced the big swing, shooting a two-run double to left field to put San Mateo up 4-1. Friedland then stole third base, and scored on a fielding error on the play.
Walking back to the mound with the lead in the top of the fourth, Guzman seized on the advantage to be more tenacious to the strike zone.
“I just feel more confident, especially when we have a big lead,” Guzman said. “I can just let them hit it into play instead of trying to strike everyone out.”
With the win, San Mateo American advances to the Section 3, opening Saturday, July 13 at 11 a.m. at Marshall Park in Fremont.
“I felt kind of disappointed we couldn’t get more runs that just one run in the first inning,” Balmy said. “But, if anything, San Mateo deserved it.”