FREMONT — Now they’re even.
After Granada-Livermore beat the San Mateo American 10-11 All-Stars with a walk-off win Saturday, American returned the favor.
Ian Chang’s infield hit in the bottom of the sixth inning brought home Oscar Osuna to give San Mateo a 2-1 and force the “if necessary” game of the championship series at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Marshall Field in Fremont.
“We knew that was coming,” said San Mateo manager Jason Gordon. “They won in the last inning the first time and we got them today. … It just comes down to one play.”
Wednesday will be the fifth straight day of playing for San Mateo, as Saturday’s loss to Granada knocked SMA into the consolation bracket.
After San Mateo reliever Donovan Friedland struck out the final two batters to get out of a two-on jam in the top of the sixth Tuesday, San Mateo put together the game-winning rally in the bottom of the frame.
And it was the bottom of the order that got the job done. Osuna reached base on a fielder’s choice and Nabhan Singh followed with a chopper up the middle that got by the center fielder to put runners on second and third with one out.
Chang, the No. 9 hitter, came to the plate and after taking ball one, hit a chopper over the mound. The pitcher got a glove on it to deflect it toward the shortstop, who eventually corralled the ball and fired to first way too late.
Meanwhile, after a slow reaction, Osuna broke for the plate and scored to set up Wednesday’s winner-take-all for a spot in the Northern California state tournament.
“I’m proud of Ian. He’s been having a hard time hitting the ball in the air, fly balls,” Gordon said. “He finally put one on the ground.”
Gordon also credited Osuna, the No. 7 batter, and No. 8 hitter Singh for coming through in the clutch.
“Guys at the bottom of the order came through today,” Gordon said.
Said Chang: “I just wanted to make contact.”
It was an exciting end to a great Little League baseball game as the two starting pitchers — San Mateo’s Chase Gordon and Granada’s Cole Cainey — locked up in a classic pitching duel.
Cainey used a fastball-curveball combination with pinpoint accuracy to limit San Mateo, holding it two one run while scattering seven hits.
But Chase Gordon was up to the task. He matched Cainey pitch for pitch as the two both worked five innings, with neither factoring in the decision. Gordon was even more dominant, allowing just one run on five hits. He had to work around three walks, but offset those with four strikeouts.
“I tell myself every inning, it’s going to be a dog fight,” Chase Gordon said. “Every pitch matters.”
Chase Gordon certainly benefited from his defense, which played flawlessly behind him. Friedland was a vacuum at shortstop, turning a pair of double plays. He fielded a grounder, stepped on second and threw on to first in the top of the first to limit Granada to just one run. In the fourth, he repeated the twin-killing, gobbling up a grounder, touching second and going to first to end the inning.
In the top of the fifth, Friedland made the play of the game, going into hole to his left, making a backhand stop and then throwing out the runner at first on a bang-bang play.
“Donovan is new to the team this year,” said Jason Gordon. “He’s the difference in us getting to sectionals this year.”
Granada, however, put the pressure on San Mateo early as three batters into the game, it had a 1-0 lead. Joey Marasco led off the game with a hot shot to right and Taelin Alberts followed with a single to center to put runners on the corners. A double-play grounder plated Marasco with the first run of the game, but Chase Gordon got a strikeout to end the inning and limit the damage.
San Mateo, which had at least one hit in every inning, appeared to be snake bit early. Xavier Ruiz was stranded in the bottom of the first after his one-out double went for naught. In the second, San Mateo’s Ilonzo Montorio reached on a fielder’s choice and Singh was plunked in the helmet to put runners on first and second with two outs, but Cainey got a groundout to get of the jam.
San Mateo finally knotted the score in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Chase Gordon doubled down the right-field line and scored on a Sean Tam single to right.
San Mateo had a chance for more, but when Friedland beat out an infield hit, Tam, who was running from second, tried to score and was easily thrown out at the plate to end the threat.
“They’re 11-year-old kids,” Jason Gordon said.
After that, it was all about pitching and defense.
“We told [the team] it was going to be a one-run game,” Jason Gordon said.