The stage was set Sunday afternoon at Jeff Mitchell Field in El Dorado Hills: the vibe was good, anticipation high and the moment right as the local 9/10 All Stars took the field for the bottom of the sixth inning poised to take down Little League giants with just three outs to go for the District 54 title.
The problem was that Woodcreek, steeped in All Star tradition, occupied the adjacent dugout with one more rally up its sleeve. Trailing by three, Woodcreek took advantage of an El Dorado Hills’ bullpen that couldn’t nail down the final outs – winning 7-6 on Daniel Susac’s walk-off, opposite field double to right-center.
The disappointing loss stunned El Dorado Hills which had overcome a 3-0 deficit. After the early runs, El Dorado Hills starting pitcher Nathan Hansen was nails as he shut down Woodcreek while his team fought back for the lead. Hansen departed with two outs in the fifth inning and 79 pitches to a big ovation from the sun-splashed crowd on hand.
Hansen blazed a fastball to catch Susac looking to end his day and reliever Peter Hansen struck out the next batter swinging as action moved to the sixth.
El Dorado Hills couldn’t add to its lead and went back out on defense needing three more outs. A double and single quickly pulled Woodcreek a run closer and after a walk, El Dorado conceded a run by throwing out a runner at second on the back-end of a double steal. Two walks and an infield single that tied the score had two on the bases with two down and after 26 tournament games and nearly a full 27th, El Dorado Hills’ best chances at a championship laid with extra innings. Susac then ended it on a 1-1 pitch. El Dorado Hills used three pitchers in the inning.
Trailing 3-0, El Dorado Hills scored twice in the third. Will Crookham’s one-out single started things and Nathan walked. Tino Bethancourt’s hard shot to the right side got through to plate Cookham and with two out, Woodcreek threw away Shea Doyle’s grounder to allow Nathan in.
El Dorado pulled even in the fourth as Susac reached his pitch limit after a one-out walk to RJ Routon who eventually scored on Crookham’s ground-rule double. In the fifth, El Dorado Hills pushed ahead with three runs. Peter led off with a single, Doyle deadened a bunt near the chalk on the first base line for a hit and Anthony Pollari singled to left with one out to load the bases.
Routon singled up the middle for one run and Doyle and Pollari raced in on wild pitches for what appeared to be a healthy lead.
Both Hansen’s kept Woodcreek off the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth inning but El Dorado Hills, which finished 5-3 in the tournament, had no such luck in the sixth as the dejected team had to watch Woodcreek accept the banner.