Woodcreek Juniors overcome Rocklin, take tourney title

Rough week ends well for Woodcreek all-stars
By: Brett Ransford, Special to The Press Tribune
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In a fitting finale to an intense three-game series rivalry, Woodcreek won the championship of the Little League Section 4 Junior division all-star tournament 4-3 in a seventh inning rally Thursday night at Lembi Park in Folsom. Two runs in the seventh were the final scores of a back-and-forth series as Woodcreek finally touched up the Rocklin pitching staff as starter Austin Dick allowed an RBI single to Joey Valdez with one out in the inning before shutting it down for the night. The scoring knock tied the contest at 3-3. Dick pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing 3 runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Rocklin had taken a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth on Tanner McVey’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center field that brought him Jake Faulkner with the go-ahead run. Woodcreek committed four errors in six innings to Rocklin’s two errors in the critical last two innings. There was no error involved, however, when Valdez stepped to the plate in the seventh. Valdez was 3-for-12 in 24 innings against Rocklin pitching, but his first hit in the championship game was the series saver. “I had two strikes on me so I knew I had to get the ball in play at least,” Valdez said. “I was swinging first pitch, but down two strikes it was either get a hit or go home. The next one was a big meat pitch and just kept getting bigger as it got to the plate.” McVey came on in relief of Dick to keep the game there, and the first hitter he faced, George Corp, hit a routine groundball, but Joey Dirkes scored from third on a bad throw from second base attempting to cut him down at the plate. Woodcreek’s James Huck battled Dick in the second inning for the game’s first runs. After a few foul balls on a full count his single to right field drove in two runs. “When we came to this tournament we knew we’d be facing Woodcreek,” Dick said. “The velocity on my fastball wasn’t there. But, after 94 pitches on Monday I didn’t get much time to rest my arm.” To counter the fatigue JR Robinson had his pitcher’s back from the outfield. Once in the second and again in the fourth inning, Robinson made spectacular diving catches in shallow center field. Robinson was 1-for-3 for Rocklin as well, and he scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the fifth. Woodcreek starter Tyler Milani hit 1-for-4 and pitched 5 1/3 innings allowing two runs on six hits with four strikeouts and four walks. “It’s just good to have the win,” said Milani. “The last time I was up against (Dick) we lost in extra innings. I try to let my defense work to get in and out of the innings, but tonight I had to go for some strikeouts and it all worked out in the end.” In relief for Woodcreek Derek Guerra pitched the last two innings. He walked the lead batter in the seventh, but a nice double play turned by second baseman Bobby Pajer got him off the hook and preserved the win for his team. Coach Mike Valdez was getting water coolers dumped on him and posing with his newly acquired championship flag minutes after the win. His team enjoyed a victory lap around the infield as they laughed and flew their Section 4 championship flag. “We lost the lead, but battled back,” Valdez said. “They were still pumped up from yesterday and again banged out double figures in hits. It’s safe to say they like to make it interesting for me.” The win propels Woodcreek into the Northern California Divisional tournament beginning with a 1 p.m. Saturday game against the Section 6 (Stockton and surrounding area) champions at Lincoln Glen High School in San Jose. The double-elimination tournament continues through the next seven days in San Jose. FYI: What: Northern California Division 2 Junior division tournament Woodcreek vs. Section 6 champion Where: Willow Glen High School, San Jose When: First round, 1 p.m. Saturday