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Lakeside jumps Tri-City early, wins section title

Northern Cal divisional tourney next up for Lakeside
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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A breakout game for Lakeside third baseman Dylan Keeney keyed a first inning explosion that had a powerful Tri-City team on its heels from the outset as the District 54 Major division champions from Granite Bay made it two straight tourney titles Wednesday night with an 11-1 win in the Section 4 title tilt. Lakeside ran roughshod over the field as it sandwiched a pair of 11-1 wins around an 11-0 victory in sweeping three games on its home field during the section tourney. While all three contests put its spectacular offensive depth on display, the constant for Lakeside throughout was dominating pitching and exceptional defense. Unlike its wins over Fair Oaks/Orangevale (11-1) and West Sacramento (11-0) in which Lakeside leaned heavily on the leather early on before breaking out late with huge offensive surges, in the championship win over Tri-City, Lakeside took the pressure off with six first inning runs. “We have a very explosive offense,” said Lakeside manager Bill Rockefeller. “It has taken a few innings to put it together at the plate in games past. We have been working on that and it really came alive early against Tri-City against a very strong pitcher.” With Tri-City ace Logan Webb on the bump in the top of the first, the Granite Bay 12-year-olds received a little help from some sloppy defense as they put their first two hitters on base to open the contest. After an out, Connor Briare drew a free pass to load the bases and set up Lakeside for the big first frame. Zach Hall delivered the first big knock, as he singled sharply through the right side of the infield to chase home Nick Frank with the game’s first run. After Grant Powers worked a bases-loaded walk to plate Billy Rockefeller with a second run, Webb went to work and nearly limited the damage to just a pair. His second strikeout of the inning put the right-hander on the verge, and then he worked the count to 0-2 as Keeney stepping in at the dish. The two-strike pitch is one he would like to have back, as he hung a breaking pitch to the Lakeside third baseman. Keeney jumped on the offering and sent it high and deep over the centerfield barrier for a momentum-building grand slam. “Dylan Keeney was huge,” Bill Rockefeller said. “With an 0-2 count and bases loaded Webb left a hanging curve ball up and Keeney made him pay with a bomb over the centerfield fence. That was a devastating blow that Tri-City never recovered from.” Tri-City tried to respond quickly, using an error and a Jacob Erickson base hit to put two on with just one out, but Frank had all of his pitches working for Lakeside as he mixed the breaking ball with a heater that looked even faster because of his ability to vary speeds. With his location also spot on, Frank fanned the Tri-City cleanup hitter for the second out, and then the glove of Brett Munkdale rescued him from the opening stanza with the zero still intact on the Tri-City ledger. A hard ground ball of the bat of Jeffery Henry was ticketed for right field until the Lakeside second baseman left his feet in going to his left to corral the hot shot and turn it into an out at first base. “The key (for us) is great pitching and great defense,” Rockefeller said. “Those are our strengths. We only gave up two runs the entire section tournament. That is a great accomplishment.” Frank allowed a pair of base hits (by Webb and Jacob Nolen) and survived another error in the second, as Tri-City was unable to find the clutch hit that would give it hope of a comeback. Lakeside added three more in the third, and once again Keeney was in the middle of the action. Singles by Powers and Matt McCord set things up to open the inning, and chased Webb from the hill in favor of Brandon Espley. The new pitcher was greeted by Keeney, who ripped a vicious line drive that short-hopped past the Tri-City shortstop to send both runners around to score. After Keeney scored on a wild pitch, the count was increased to 9-0. “He (Keeney) has performed all year like that and finally broke out in tournament play,” Rockefeller said about his third baseman’s big six-RBI night with the stick. “We have no holes in our line up one thru 12 on defense or offense.” Frank settled in nicely and set down the side in order in the third. The right-hander allowed a leadoff two-bagger to Henry to open the fourth, as the Tri-City right fielder hit a rod down the line in right. Henry moved to third on a passed ball, but Frank fanned the next three hitters to leave him 60 feet from the promised land. Tri-City finally seemed to solve the Lakeside pitcher on its third time through, as reserve Daniel Jones launched a fifth inning home run to put his team on the board, and then Espley and Erickson singled back-to-back to bring a little life back to the Tri-City dugout. After Frank struck out the next hitter (his eighth of the game) to record the inning’s second out, Rockefeller went to the bullpen for left-hander Zach Hall to close it out. Hall got a strikeout to close out the fifth and then, touched only by an infield single in the sixth, struck out three more hitters in that stanza to complete the Lakeside section championship run. “We kept the pressure on them every inning with a great performance on the mound by Nick Frank and putting up zeroes on defense,” Rockefeller said. “They (Frank and Hall) both battled very hard. They were able to locate pitches with great accuracy.” A run-scoring single by McCord was the big blow as Lakeside cemented the victory with two insurance runs in the sixth and Hall took it from there. The loss ends the all-star run for a talented group of Tri-City all-stars, but for Lakeside the fun is just beginning. After winning the District 54 tourney in nearby Folsom and then taking Section 4 on its own home diamond, the team will now take its act on the road, specifically to Danville, for the Northern California Division 2 tournament. While the competition will continue to intensify, Rockefeller is convinced that this team has the talent and chemistry to go deep into this thing. The winner of the divisional tourney will move on to the Western Region finals in San Bernadino, with the Major division tourney eventually culminating as 16 teams gather in Williamsport for the Little League World Series. “We look forward to playing out of town,” Rockefeller said. “It will be a great experience for all the kids. Our team chemistry is at an all-time high. Everyone gets along. No player is bigger than the next player. They all genuinely care about each other and it shows on the field.” The Section 4 champs will open Division 2 play at 4 p.m. Saturday at Danville’s Osage Station Park against the winners of Section 5 – the survivor of a title game between Los Altos and Saratoga of the San Jose area. “We played well at the section level,” Rockefeller said. “We will continue to play one game at a time without looking ahead any further than that.” FYI: The Lakeside Major division all-stars are Billy Rockefeller, Myles Slattery, Matt Berry, Connor Briare, Grant Keeney, Brett Munkdale, Matt Steindorf, Matt McCord, Nick Frank, Zach Hall, Mitch Hart and Grant Powers.