The Empire strikes back!; Redwood Empire beats Eel River for Little League Title

Mark Lourenzo

Beacon Correspondent

The Redwood Empire 12-year-old All-Stars sailed through the tournament bracket unbeaten and on July 4, captured the District 26 Little League Championship at Haney Field in Eureka. Redwood Empire took on the Eel River Little League All-Stars in the title contest and the finale included excellent pitching, sparkling defensive plays and offensive fireworks. Eel River had sustained a loss to Southern Humboldt earlier in the tournament bracket and had to work their way back through the losers side. Eel River did so with a dramatic win on July 1 over Arcata by a 6-5 score. Eel River then topped Eureka 7-0 and got their revenge win in the rematch against Southern Humboldt by a final of 13-0.

However, going into the championship game, Eel River had two more games played then Redwood Empire due to the bracket configuration and the innings surely took their toll on the All-Stars. After a scoreless first inning of play, the Redwood Empire team took a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Four straight hits by Isaac Gutierrez, Joshua Holmes, Drew Nylander and Cayden Pope paced the Redwood Empire attack and Brice Marcuz hit a 2-RBI single for the big blow. Eel River starting pitcher Church Crenshaw recovered with a strikeout to end the threat, but damage done. The Eel River offense responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning as a 2-run homer by Jorge Johnson fired up the team.

Redwood Empire kept their lead briefly as Eel River scored two more in the bottom of the third frame. Mason Fields had a single and Hunter Turner drew a walk prior to Cade Richardson's RBI infield single and suddenly the game was tied at four runs apiece. Redwood Empire had fresher arms on the pitching staff as Jonathan Parr started the game, Joshua Holmes came in to relieve and David Vagle finished the game. Each threw two innings and each threw effectively. Eel River countered with Crenshaw as starter and Johnson in relief.

With the game knotted at four going into the final innings, it was David Vagle on the mound that locked down the Eel River offense and his solo home run in the 5th inning proved to be the catalyst for Redwood Empire. Base hits by Isaac Gutieriez and Cayden Pope were supplemented by a bases loaded walk to Cosmo Hutchins and a bases loaded hit-by-a-pitch by Braden Glavich. Redwood Empire took a 7-4 lead with their ace on the mound for the final two at bats for Eel River. There was no additional scoring and Redwood locked down the win with the final out in the 6th inning. As district champs, the 12-year-olds will travel this weekend to the Redding/Red Bluff area for the section tournament.

Photo by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

Eel River Little League 12-year-old All-Star shortstop Mason Fields steps on the bag for the force on Redwood Empire baserunner Cosmo Hutchins, all the while eyeing first base for a chance at the double play on July 4 at Haney Field in Eureka. Fields sure enough turned the third inning double play as Eel River and Redwood Empire exchanged great defensive plays, offensive firepower and good pitching in the district championship game.