Before Clovis Unified School District superintendent Eimear O’Farrell delivered the first pitch on Saturday morning, she made one warning to the crowd — it had been a while since she last threw a baseball.
Nonetheless, her toss made its way to the plate and ushered in American Legion baseball to Clovis.
The double-elimination state championship tournament left its longtime home in Yountville, California for the Buchanan High baseball stadium this weekend. Six teams qualified by winning their area championship.
Two remain — the Post 28 Leghorns from Petaluma High School, and the Post 113 Napa Valley Baseball Club from Vintage High School. They will play for the Department of California baseball championship at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
If Napa Valley wins the 9 a.m. game, the teams will play again in a winner-take-all contest at noon. Petaluma has a 3-0 record in the tournament and needs to lose twice Tuesday to lose the championship.
It did not come easy for Petaluma. The Leghorns were down to their final two outs in the tournament’s first game.
Trailing 3-2 to Oceanside in the bottom of the 7th inning, Petaluma left fielder Mario Zarco came to the plate with runners on third and first base and one out. The only thought on his mind — don’t hit into a double play.
So Zarco squared up and laid a bunt down the first base line. The ball rolled all the way to first base without ever going foul, a perfect bunt single to tie the game.
“I was just trying to get it down and move the runners over,” Zarco said. “I wasn’t even trying to score him, but he ended up coming home.”
Petaluma walked off a 4-3 win thanks to a bases-loaded walk in the 8th inning. The Leghorns defeated Long Beach Wilson, 5-2, and Oceanside again, 16-2, to advance to the final.
Napa Valley lost its first game of the tournament but won three straight elimination games, including two on Monday, to make the final.
Saturday games – final scores:
Game 1: Petaluma Leghorns 4, Oceanside Vipers 3 (8 innings)
In the tournament opener, Nick Taormina played hero, drawing a bases-loaded walk to win it.
Game 2: Long Beach Wilson Bruins 7, Atwater/Merced Yammers 2
The Bruins scored four runs in the top of the 1st inning and held on for the win, helped by pitcher Charlie Royle’s complete game.
Game 3: Patrick Henry HS Trojans 9, Napa Valley Baseball Club 5
Patrick Henry trailed 5-0 entering the bottom of the 5th, but the Trojans scored six runs in the inning and tacked on three more in the 6th.
Sunday games – final scores:
Game 4 (winner’s bracket): Petaluma Leghorns 5, Long Beach Wilson Bruins 2
Drew Haskins kept Long Beach Wilson in check for most of Sunday morning, striking out eight batters and pitching 6.1 innings for the win.
Game 5: Oceanside Vipers 9, Patrick Henry HS Trojans 1
Will Hostetter led a big day at the plate for Oceanside, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, an RBI and three runs scored.
Game 6 (elimination game): Napa Valley Baseball Club 11, Atwater/Merced Yammers 5
Atwater/Merced scored three runs in the top of the 1st but gave up nine unanswered runs after that. The Yammers were the first team eliminated from the tournament.
Monday games – final scores:
Game 7 (elimination game): Napa Valley Baseball Club 5, Patrick Henry HS 4 (8 innings)
Jackson Cole hit a walk-off single in the 8th inning, ending a wild game that included three lead changes and two ties in the game’s final three innings.
Game 8: Petaluma Leghorns 16, Oceanside Vipers 2 (5 innings)
Oceanside was eliminated in a mercy rule-shortened game, as Petaluma’s Garrett Lewis and Zane Bennett each hit three-run home runs in the rout.
Game 9 (elimination game): Napa Valley Baseball Club 9, Long Beach Wilson Bruins 5
Napa Valley’s Connor Smith went 3-for-4, drove in two RBIs, and closed the game on the mound. Napa Valley was clutch at the plate, with six of its runs coming with two outs.
“We’re just trying to have fun,” Smith said. “We don’t play the score anymore. We just play to have fun and get our hits.”