For the second year in a row, the District 26 Tournament of Champions title game came down to a battle between two Eel River Little League teams. Also for a second year in a row that battle was waged between the Angels and the D-Backs. In a reversal of last seasons results, the No. 1 seeded Angels won out over the D-Backs in a 9-8 thriller. One thing certain, the Eel River valley has certainly been blessed in recent years with baseball talent in the youth divisions. For two teams in the same locale to rise to the top in a district roughly the equivalent of Humboldt-Del Norte is quite an accomplishment.
Both the Angels and the D-Backs sailed through their first round games Saturday in Eureka. The Angels won over Klamath-Trinity No. 2 by a score of 14-1, Sam Betts blasted a 3-run home run in the contest played at host field, Haney Park. The D-Backs used multiple pitchers in their 11-3 win over Klamath Trinity No. 1 at Highland Park, with Holden Palmer getting the start on the mound and the victory. Sunday's matchup was more competitive for the teams as the Eel River Angels faced the No. 1 Redwood Empire A's while the D-Backs squared off against Eureka No. 2.
The Angels jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning versus the A's and never relinquished the lead. Sam Betts got the start and pitched nearly a complete game getting 14 strikeouts against the A's batters. There were however some tense moments in the final inning as the A's loaded the bases in their final at bat, then Angel reliever J.B. Lewis came in and got one final strikeout to secure the 7-3 win. Sam Betts hit a double and a triple, J.B. Lewis had a single and double, Sheaden Sanderson had 3 RBIs, both Bailey Foley and Hunter Turner hit doubles.
Meanwhile, the D-Backs shut out Eureka No. 2 by a score of 10-0. Again the D-Backs went with the multiple pitchers approach. Over the weekend, the hard hitting D-Backs hit two inside the park home runs, one by Cody Emmons and a bases-loaded slam by Collin Newman. Monday night the D-Backs continued their winning ways in a much tighter contest. Holden Palmer went the distance on the mound, striking out a dozen in a win over the Redwood Empire Angels. Palmer also produced a double and triple at the plate, while teammate Carlos Bernal had a 2 RBI double, Dylan Verbich, Gabe Sandberg, Cody Emmons and Theron Dale each had important hits and Eel River won 4-2 over Redwood Empire.
On the same night, the Eel River Angels survived their semifinal matchup against Blue Lake. It took two homers by Sam Betts, a homer by J.B. Lewis and some tense moments before the Angels emerged with their 7-4 win. Lewis got the start and the win, Bailey Foley earned the save and it was on to the championship game where the two Eel River Little League teams would face each other for the title. Both teams were getting thin on pitching after three preliminary rounds in the tournament bracket.
Dannon Parsells got the start for the Angels and pitched four plus solid innings. Meanwhile, the Angels batters went to work and they scored in each of the first three innings against D-Back starter Cody Emmons. Emmons pitched a valiant game, however, the D-Back defense did not turn the tough plays behind him on hard hit balls by the Angels. After everything that could go wrong for the D-Backs did so, the Angels built a 9-0 lead midway through the game. Angel starter Parsells received excellent defense behind him as shortstop Sam Betts and 2nd baseman J.B. Lewis turned several hard-hit balls into outs, including a double play in the second inning. Parsells was sailing along until he tired in the fifth inning and the D-Backs rallied.
Erupting for five hits and two walks, the D-Backs started their comeback with five runs in that fifth innings as Parsells gave way to reliever Zac Claus. The D-Backs had already switched pitchers in the fourth and hard throwing relief pitcher Carlos Bernal came in and shut out the Angels the rest of the game. In their final at bat, the D-Backs pushed three more runs across to make it 9-8 and Angels pitcher Zac Claus must have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. Defensive plays by shortstop Betts and a nice catch by centerfielder Hunter Turner were followed by a final strikeout by pitcher Claus and the Angels celebrated their 9-8 win for the championship.
Angels batting was led by three hits from Betts and Lewis and Brice Ray, two hits by Bailey Foley and off the bench Dylan Cervantes had a single and a walk. D-Backs were led by Holden Palmer's two singles and a RBI double, Dylan Verbich went 2 for 3 with two RBIs, Cody Emmons also went 2 for 3 with a double, as did Collin Newman with two RBIs, Theron Dale had a RBI double coming off the bench as the team sent the tying run to the plate after coming back from a 9-0 deficit. The Angels were coached by Saul Lewis and the D-Backs were led by Casey Emmons. In a show of sportsmanship, the winning Angels team called over the D-Backs players after the game to take one big group photo as these two Eel River Little League teams are friends first that sometimes have to play against each other.
Photos by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon
1. The Eel River Little League Angels were crowned District 26 Champions Tuesday at Haney Park in Eureka. For the 2nd year in a row the Tournament of Champions featured two Eel River teams in the title game, this time it was the Angels hanging on for a 9-8 victory over the D-Backs.
2. The Eel River Little League Angels' Dannon Parsells, starting and winning pitcher in Tuesday's championship game, delivers a fastball to an ERLL D-Backs batter.
3. Eel River Little League Angels batter J.B. Lewis takes a rip at a fastball right down the middle and sends it to the outfield fence for an extra base hit in the District 26 Tournament of Champions just completed this past Tuesday in Eureka.