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Following a tough 2-1 loss on Saturday, City made a return trip to Dixon on Sunday to try and stave off an end to the season. We were facing Fort Bragg Little League, who had only 11 players, but enough size and strength for a team of 14.
SF came out swinging in the top of the 1st - 3 of our 4 hitters made good contact, but Fort Bragg’s defense made the plays to end the inning scoreless. Charlie Havens was on the bump for City. After allowing a leadoff walk, he froze the second batter for a strikeout. The third batter put down a sac bunt that went back to the Charlie, but he threw wide of first, allowing the leadoff runner to score. A flyout to Kol Van Giesen and a great catch on a high pop fly by catcher Matt Yeung ended the inning with the score 1-0.
Trey Chase reached on an error in the 2nd, and was thrown out attempting to steal by Fort Bragg catcher JR DeVito - an absolute on the money throw. The catcher play in this game on both sides was excellent, despite the difficult conditions - deep backstop, nearly 100 degree heat. Colson Ryan hit a nice single to left field but was stranded. Havens allowed a hit in the bottom of the 2nd but otherwise handled the Fort Bragg hitters with a flyout, groundout, and strikeout.
SF put three balls in play in its half of the 3rd, but again Fort Bragg made the plays, limiting us to one baserunner and zero runs. Fort Bragg extended its lead in the bottom of the 3rd after a two-out throwing error by Colson Ryan and a bases-loaded walk issued by Havens. SF was in a 3-0 hole and still looking for offense.
The offense remained missing in the top of the 4th, with a groundout and two strikeouts accounting for a 1-2-3 inning. Fort Bragg put runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out in the bottom of the 4th, and executed a suicide squeeze to bring home one run, with the second runner following close behind and taking advantage of a slow-to-react SF defense to make it 5-0. Thor Breece came on in relief of Havens and struck out one batter to end the inning.
SF battled back in the top of the 5th. Brandon Hing reached on an error, advanced to second on a Thor Breece walk, and over to third on a wild pitch. Christian Wong hit an infield single to score Brandon and SF was finally on the board. With two outs, Kol Van Giesen hit a single to right field to score two and make it SF 3, Fort Bragg 5. Unfortunately the inning ended when coach Todd got greedy and tried to have Trey Chase (running for Kol) steal a bag. The Fort Bragg catcher made another great throw to get our fastest runner and the inning was over.
After Fort Bragg led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk and a single off of Thor, Brandon Hing was summoned in relief. Two popups and one strikeout later, the inning had ended with no damage. Again in SF’s top of the 6th, our batters got contact on the bat, but nothing was able to drop in for a hit.
Fort Bragg tacked on two more insurance runs in the bottom of the 6th with a sacrifice fly and a reach on error. SF was down to its last three outs. Brandon Hing and Hudson Fox both flied out to first. Charlie Havens worked a walk to give SF some life, but it was not to be and a groundout back to the pitcher ended the game and ended SF’s All Star season by a final score of 7-3.
Although the bats were slightly warmer on the day, the mental and physical effort put in over the past six weeks seemed to have finally caught up with the team, and we were unable to execute effectively enough to get a win. There is no question everybody involved with this team gave maximum effort - a key ingredient, and a choice, that we all expected from one another.
Some of the players will have worn a Little League uniform for the last time, but we hope they take with them the spirit and culture of the league they've played with for so many years, and we hope to see them return to mentor the next generation. For the players with another year of Juniors remaining, we'll see them become team leaders in their own right next season.
As we've been training for all along though - it is all about the journey, not about the destination - and the journey of this team was a special one. New friends were made, new ideas were shared, new experiences were had; ones that each team member will build on as they go forward in baseball and in life.
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