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Seventh inning surge lifts Rocklin past Maidu in Senior sections

Great Maidu run ends at Rocklin moves on to NorCal tourney
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Sometimes it is not the quantity of the hits, but the timing and the quality that plays the biggest role between the painted lines of the baseball diamond. Such was the case in Thursday night’s Rocklin win over Maidu in the championship game of the Little League Section 4 Senior division tournament at American River College. A big home run by Michael Blattel and two clutch singles off the bat of Chris Streeter were among just four Rocklin hits as it earned a 5-4 win after scoring three runs in the top of the seventh inning to complete a come-from-behind victory. Maidu scored first, taking advantage of a Chris Novielli hit and a Rocklin error in the initial inning, but Rocklin responded in the second when Blattel left the yard to open the stanza. The pitchers took over from there, as Maidu’s Josh Lakey and Rocklin’s Carson Wittwer took turns hanging zeroes on the board until Maidu finally found a way in the fourth. Jared Virtue tripled in the inning for Maidu’s only hit, but that big knock came after the crew from Roseville had already plated the run without a hit. Brock Kent reached on a two-base throwing error, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on Lakey’s groundout. Again, Rocklin wasted no time in equalizing as it scored in the top of the fifth. A hit batter and a walk set the stage for a two-out Streeter single that chased home the tying run. Streeter was just the second batter to face Maidu reliever Taylor Phillips, who was a tough matchup for the Rocklin hitters. Maidu put itself in position to take the championship in the home half of the inning on the strength of consecutive inning-opening singles by Mack Boone and Jack Howell. Novielli was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no one out, and then Boone scored on a double-play grounder to second. Boone had a pair of hits to lead the Maidu offense. Kent followed with a high chopper to the right side of the Rocklin first baseman, and the Maidu centerfielder used his speed to beat the pitcher and first baseman to the bag for an infield single, while Howell scored the second run of the inning to give Maidu a 4-2 advantage. Three-up, three-down followed for both teams in the sixth, and then a pair of Maidu miscues opened the door for Streeter. After a leadoff walk and a fly ball out in the top of the seventh, a pair of errors brought home a run and put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position for Rocklin. Scott Moller’s liner to left was misplayed initially, and then Maidu caught a bad break after Ty Kennedy’s ground ball to third. The throw to Boone at first was low, but the first baseman was in position to dig it out on a long hop until the ball struck the lip of the grass and took a wicked hop over his head and bounced away into foul territory. With the runners at second and third, Maidu brought the infield in, hoping to preserve what was then a one-run advantage, but Streeter bounced a single through the middle against a drawn-in infield to plate both runners. Kennedy got the call from the bullpen to close things out for Wittwer and set Maidu down in order on a pair of strikeouts and a game-ending ground ball to second base, ending a highly successful season for the team from Roseville’s east side. “It was a great run,” said Maidu manager Rich Boone. “These kids should all hold their heads high for what they accomplished in winning the District 54 championship and getting this far here.” With the win, Rocklin moves on to the Northern California Division 2 tourney in Stockton. The team’s first divisional game against the Section 1 (covers the region south of Sacramento and north of the Bay Area) champion is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night at Billy Hebert Field in Stockton.