Eel River 12-year-old All-Stars win District 26 title; team to face Section 2 rivals in Susanville on Saturday

Mark Lourenzo/Beacon Correspondent

The Eel River 12-year-old All-Stars won the District 26 Little League Tournament this past Saturday at Rohner Park in downtown Fortuna. The team did it the hard way after losing their opening game one week prior, the All-Stars worked their way through the losers side of the double elimination bracket, winning seven games over seven days before celebrating a championship. The McKinleyville All-Stars took the short route to the championship series after emerging unbeaten through the preliminary rounds however, it was Eel River's deep pitching staff that held up to the week-long challenge. Winning close games and blow-outs along the way, Eel River erupted in the tournament finale for a stunning 14-0 win for the title. The team will now travel to Susanville to take part in the Northern California, Section 2 Little League Tournament, commencing Saturday.

Prior rounds at Rohner Park saw host Eel River eliminate Southern Humboldt by a score of 13-2. Sam Betts hit 2-3 with a three-run homer, Holden Palmer went 2-4 and Tanner Miller was the winning pitcher. Eel River also avenged their first round loss with a 11-2 victory over Del Norte. Tanner Miller went 4-4 with a double in that win, Sam Betts hit 3-4 and J.B. Lewis hit a double and a home run. Eel River broke a 2-2 tie after one inning by sending 11 batters to the plate in the 2nd frame, then cruised to the win. The All-Stars also beat Redwood Empire in the semifinal round, it was a much tighter contest then the prior three wins. Jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Eel River and Redwood Empire pitching then threw shutout innings until the 5th frame. Redwood Empire combined a walk and a RBI double to close to 2-1 in the top of the inning. Eel River answered with two homers in the bottom of the inning and held on for a 5-1 win. Collin Newman bust the game open with his two-run homer, J.B. Lewis followed with a solo shot, Lewis also threw a 67 pitch, six inning complete game while his teammates backed his effort with solid defense.

The Eel River winning streak set up the championship series against the McKinleyville All-Stars. McKinleyville would only have to come up with one win to claim the title, coming from the losers bracket, Eel River would have to beat the opponent twice to win the championship. Game one proved to be a nail-biter and the turning point for Eel River. Both teams showed their offensive prowess early as McKinleyville pushed across two runs to open the game, Eel River bounced back with three runs to lead after one inning. Starting pitchers McKinleyville's Noah Richards and Eel River's Sam Betts then settled down and silenced the offense for the better part of three innings. McKinleyville pushed across a single run in the third frame to tie the game up and the tension built in the stands and on the field.

Outstanding performances by the opposing pitchers gave way to relief pitching as both Richards and Betts hit the pitch count limit for Little League rules. Tanner Miller took the mound for Eel River and proceeded to throw shutout ball the rest of the way. Eel River broke through for three runs in the bottom of the fifth against the opposing relief pitching and the result was a thrilling 6-3 win. Hits were hard to come by however, Eel River's Sam Betts went 2-3, J.B. Lewis also went 2-3; both hits were doubles. Holden Palmer and Tanner Miller each stroked doubles and Collin Newman went 1 for 2. The defensive gem of the day went to Eel River's Braden Mandon as his diving catch in the fifth inning on a deep fly ball to left field, foul territory came with two on and two out for Redwood Empire.

The tournament finale last Saturday turned out to be anti-climatic as Eel River exploded for six runs in their first at-bat then ran off to the 14-0 win over McKinleyville for the district championship. On a team loaded with ace pitchers, Eel River had tall southpaw Holden Palmer saved for the final game and it was lights out from the mound. Palmer finished with a complete game (10 run rule, four innings) no-hitter, registering eight strikeouts, three base-on-balls and allowing just four McKinleyville baserunners. Eel River's Church Crenshaw proved to be the final day RBI king at the plate as his first ever Little League home run came at a great time, a first inning grand slam. Crenshaw then came back later and hit a two-RBI double. Cody Emmons also hit a RBI double. Garrett Stevens' RBI double hit the outfield fence, just missing a home run.

It took a seven-game winning streak over seven days and playing eight games total over nine days, but the Eel River All-Stars survived and won the District 26 Championship. "It just shows how deep our pitching staff was," said Eel River head coach Saul Lewis. "McKinleyville was a quality opponent, yesterday was a tough one (the 6-3 game) but we got the job done and we were glad to be able to send Holden out there to the mound today," added coach Lewis. Fortuna's Saul Lewis has won four district titles in recent years with different combinations of these boys. Holden Palmer, Sam Betts and J.B. Lewis have been there on all four teams. The All-Stars will now try to complete their legacy by winning a Section 2 Championship over in Susanville on Saturday.

McKinleyville/Arcata wins Babe Ruth 13's district title

Also playing host for another tournament, Fortuna's Newburg Park was the site for the District 1 Babe Ruth 13 year old tournament this past weekend. Host Eel River was bounced out after losing to both Eureka by a score of 16-1 and McKinleyville/Arcata by a score of 9-6. Eureka's Hunter Stapp was winning pitcher and Adam Kirk went 2-3 at the plate with a double in their win over Eel River. The combined McKinleyville/Arcata team saw Tanner Mattingly get the win on the mound over Eel River while teammate Homan Jackson hit 3-3 at the plate. Eel River's Marty Corley went 2-3 with a double however, the host team was eliminated early in the bracket.

McKinleyville/Arcata All-Stars opened the tournament with a loss to Eureka by a score of 6-5. Winning pitcher was Eureka's Payton Ballew, Chase Thurston hit 3-4 in that victory. However, McKinleyville/Arcata would get their revenge in another close contest as they won Saturday in a shootout, 13-11. Winning pitcher was Dillon Camperl, Mark Wainwright hit 2-4 with a double. The two teams would again meet for the title game on Sunday and once again McKinleyville/Arcata came through with a clutch performance. Tanner Mattingly got his second win of the tournament, Casey Ford hit 3-3 and McKinleyville/Arcata beat Eureka 6-2 for the District 1 Title. The 13-year-old team now travels to Woodland to take part in the Northern California Babe Ruth State Tournament running from July 14 through July 21.

Eel River Babe Ruth will be represented well at the 14-year-old level as the All-Stars travel to Palo Alto for the Northern California State Tournament for that age level beginning on July 14. Fortuna's Bob Figueiredo will coach and take the team to that high-level competition event. To tune up for the trip, most of the players from the regular season unbeaten ERV Dodgers made the trip north this past weekend to take part in the Brookings Invitational. Eel River blasted host Brookings in their opener by a score of 23-3. Fortuna's Danny Lewis hit two doubles with the bases loaded to total six RBI's in that win. In the second round the Dodgers trailed late by a score of 3-2 but rallied for nine runs to win 11-3 and gain berth in the championship game.

Facing Coos Bay in the title game, Eel River scored six runs in the first inning but that would be all their offense the rest of the day. Coos Bay answered with two runs in the first, single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings and the game went down to the final at bats. Loading the bases in their final chance, Coos Bay was left wondering "what if" as Eel River's southpaw pitcher Tyler Janowski struck out the side to preserve the win and the tournament championship. ERV catcher Nolan Cahill was MVP and Myles Borgelin pitched a tournament-limit 10 innings on the mound. ERV's Kokko Figueiredo made a game-saving catch that made the highlight reel. Good luck to the team down in Palo Alto.

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Photo by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

The Eel River Little League 12-year-old All-Stars were crowned District 26 Champions July 7 at Rohner Park with their 14-0 victory over McKinleyville in the title game. The ERLL All-Stars had to come back after losing their opening round game, then coming through with seven straight "must wins" over seven days before claiming the championship. The team, coached by Saul Lewis, heads next to the Section 2 Little League Tournament in Susanville, facing off against the District 2 champions on Saturday.