It’s been a while since San Mateo American and Alpine Little League have made significant noise in the District 52 All-Star tournament in recent history.
SMA, however, has started to turn things around the last three seasons and Wednesday it continued its renaissance by advancing to the winners’ bracket final of the 9-10 All-Star Tournament with a 7-0 win over Alpine at Red Morton Park in Redwood City.
“They’re a great team,” Alpine manager Mike Courson said of San Mateo American. “They can hit. They’ve got great pitching.”
Hitting and pitching were both on display for SMA, which won its third straight game to start the tournament. Jesus Olivas and Julio Calderon combined on a four-hit shutout on the mound, while Olivas paced the offense by going 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs.
In all, SMA finished with 10 hits.
“Great pitching performance by both my pitchers,” said SMA manager Steve Church. “The boys have worked really hard to get to this level.”
Alpine had their chances to get to Olivas early, but he kept them from getting that one big hit. After Alpine leadoff hitter Fletcher Cahill reached on an infield hit to start the game, Olivas got a popout before facing Matthew Majayla. With the count full, Majayla fouled off nine straight pitches. On the 15th pitch of the at-bat, Majayla finally straightened one out — and it found the glove of SMA third baseman Cooper Hipps, who snared the line drive for the second out.
“From my angle, I thought it would go over [Hipps’] head,” Olivas said.
A popout ended the inning, but Olivas finished with 26 pitches thrown in a game where 75 in the maximum.
“I was thinking even though he didn’t get a hit, he dug deep into his pitch count,” Courson said of Majayla’s at-bat.
Who knows what would have happened if the ball did go over Hipps’ head. Instead, it was SMA that got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. Leo Rhein led off with a single to left and went to second on a wild pitch. Majayla, Alpine’s starting pitcher, got the next two batters to fly out before Olivas came to the plate. Facing a 2-1 count, Olivas chopped at a forehead-high pitch, blooping it down the left-field line for an RBI and a 1-0 SMA lead.
SMA took command of the game in the bottom of the second, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring five runs on five hits. Bennett Simon began the inning with a single and went to third on a Jesse Sanchez double to the fence in left field. Jared Wong drove in the first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly and Rhein followed with an RBI double to left. Hipps drew a walk, with both baserunners moving up on a wild pitch. RJ Church drove in the third run of the inning with his single to left and Olivas punctuated the rally with a two-run double to the right-center field gap.
SMA then rounded out the scoring in the bottom of the third when pinch hitter Caleb Bandel hit a sacrifice fly to left to drive in Simon, who led off the inning with SMA’s third double of the game.
That was more than enough offense for Olivas. He allowed a one-out single in the second inning, off the bat of Alpine’s Timothy Harrick, but got a flyout and a strikeout looking to end the inning.
In the third, Sully Fischbein was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, but SMA got a nice defensive play from its right fielder, who made a catch of a dying line drive off the top of the grass for the first out of the inning. A groundout and flyout to left field ended Alpine’s chances.
After getting the first out of the fourth inning, Olivas walked Patrick Cole to end his day with 66 pitches. Calderon came in and got off to an inauspicious start, walking the first batter he faced in Harrick.
But Calderon settled down and got a strikeout and a forceout at third to end the frame.
Fischbein picked up Alpine’s third hit of the game in the top of the fifth, while John Weaver had an infield in the sixth, but Alpine simply could not string together enough hits to give itself a chance to stay in the game.
SMA’s win sets up a showdown with intra-city rival San Mateo National, which walked off with a seven-inning, 1-0 win over Half Moon Bay in the other winner’s bracket semifinal Wednesday.