Recently, the American Legion Baseball Post 147 baseball team, the Clovis NightHawks, played in the State Championship of California at Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium. The team they would face, and eventually lose to, the Petaluma Leghorns, had won the State Championship the previous year.
Team Manager Rollo Adams on the Leghorns: “They’re the only undefeated team [in this year’s tournament], so we have to beat them twice. They had a favorable schedule.”
But before the NightHawks were to play in the state championship, they played four games prior to even be considered. On Friday Night, they lost to Fairfield by an 8-5 score. “We blew a five run lead,” explained Adams on the team’s unfortunate luck against the Fairfield Expos.
However, in a double elimination tournament, the NightHawks were able to hold on to hope for the rest of the tournament. They beat Post 460 Trojans, or Patrick Henry by a score of 10-0 on Saturday. They then beat the Long Beach Wilson Bruins handedly by a score of 8-1 on Sunday. Finally, on Monday, they would again face the Fairfield Expos, but this time they would not blow a lead, winning their game 6-5 to send them to a Championship game on Tuesday.
The other team that the Fairfield Expos also lost to were the Petaluma Leghorns, but going into the possible double header, Rollo Adams did not seem scathed. “This group was not as good as the group they had last year….They threw their number one against Fairfield…the Fairfield coach told me that their number two guy is not as good.”
Going into the day with this information, the NightHawks hoped that if they were able to win the first game, they could ride the momentum into the second as well to win the State Championship. Being a double elimination tournament, the NightHawks had to beat Petaluma, who was undefeated, twice.
Each team throughout the tournament wore specifically designed jerseys to honor military branches and law enforcement. The Petaluma Leghorns wore jerseys designed for Law Enforcement, and the Clovis NightHawks’ jerseys represented the Space Force.
In game one, the NightHawks got on the board quickly in the first inning with a pair of doubles from Max Bernal and JP Acosta. Acosta would have himself another RBI single in the third inning to give the NightHawks a 2-0 lead. In the top of the fifth, Max Bernal would join the RBI party with a double past the Longhorns’ right fielder, scoring Jace Davies all the way from first who was off on the pitch.
The Leghorns would finally get on the board in the bottom of the fifth, when after the bases became loaded, a lined single into right center would score two bringing the score tightly to 3-2.
In the top of the seventh, with two runners on, Drake Philips drove in two ever important insurance runs with an RBI double into right centerfield. Philips would be thrown out at third to end the inning trying to stretch that double into a triple. The bottom of the seventh went uneventful as the NightHawks would hold on and force a game two by a score of 5-2.
In game two, the roles were reversed and the NightHawks, seemingly having the advantage of winning game one, would also be awarded Home Team designations. However, the Longhorns would come out swinging, plating two in the top of the first. A deep fly ball past the left centerfielder would score two for the NightHawks in the bottom of the second and in the bottom of the fourth, Clovis would take a 4-2 lead.
Then in the top of the fifth, the Petaluma Leghorns would take a 6-4 lead, but this is not where the scoring would end. In the bottom of the sixth, Drake Philips would again come up clutch, hitting a home run past the left field fence to cut the Leghorns’ lead to 6-5. Skyler Dwiggings would tie the game with a base hit into right, scoring Michael Klein who earlier doubled.
JP Acosta would come in to pitch the top of the seventh inning, but after a triple, a fly out, and an intentional walk, Acosta would misfire, throwing a wild pitch above catcher Drake Philips’ head, giving the Leghorns a 7-6 lead. Then a ground ball through the first baseman would score another dagger, and would end the game 8-6 after a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half of the last frame.
The Petaluma Leghorns would become State Champions for the second year in a row, and Clovis’ run would end. However, it must be remembered that it would end all the way in the last inning of their last game, proving that the NightHawks were so close to moving on to the Regional Championship in Fairfield.