Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Perko’s slugger Benji Molina gets congratulations from Perko’s manager and his father, Mike, after hitting a go-ahead two-run home run in Tuesday’s District 10 quarterfinal win against Drs. Stevinsons.
Another home run from Benji Molina sent Madera American Little League and City champion Perko’s Café to the District 10 Tournament of Champions semifinals.
Perko’s defeated Madera National Little League champion Drs. Stevinsons for the second time in four days in the first round of the TOC.
Unlike Saturday’s City Championship game where Perko’s easily took the title with a 9-1 victory, Tuesday’s game was close even after Molina’s go-ahead home run in the fourth for a 4-2 victory.
Both teams scored a run in the first before Perko’s took the lead in the third, but Drs. Stevinsons tied the game with a run in the top of the fourth. Molina’s two-run home run led Perko’s to the two-run victory.
“We had to go sit in the shade before the game because they were too hot,” Perko’s manager Mike Molina said. “They were out of it. The heat got to them. Benji was warming up and everything was hitting the fence. We spent the last half hour before the game sitting in the shade on the fence. They aren’t used to it.”
Benji Molina picked up the win, tossing the first 5 1/3 innings. He allowed two runs, one earned with 14 strikeouts. Elijah Tang struck out one in getting the final two outs for the save.
“Benji started off a little wild,” manager Molina said. “They ate up a lot of pitches. The game was even until Benji’s home run.”
Timmy Nino suffered his second loss to Perko’s. He tossed the first four innings and struck out 10 batters.
Drs. Stevinsons got to Benji Molina in the first inning. With one out, Zachary Robbins singled to right. Gilbert Moisa followed with a single up the middle. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third.
Molina hit Nino with a pitch to load the bases. A wild pitch to Mason Roberts scored Robbins for a 1-0 lead. Molina settled down and struck out the next two batters and began a run of eight straight strikeouts.
Perko’s came back in the bottom of the first with two outs. Eli Martinez reached on an error and came all the way around the bases on another error in the outfield to tie the game.
Robbie Reynoso and Josh Alvarez followed with singles, but were stranded after a strikeout.
Perko’s took the lead in the third when Molina drew a walk to lead off the inning. He went to second on a wild pitch and stole third. Nino struck out the next two batters, but Reynoso hit a high chopper over short to drive in Molina with the go-ahead run.
Drs. Stevinsons tied the score in the fourth when Nino reached on an error and advanced to third on the play. Molina struck out the next two. Eric McNeil hit a soft chopper to foul territory, but the ball hit an indention and bounced fair and he reached without a throw to drive in Nino.
After getting two strikeouts to end the first, the next 10 outs were Molina strikeouts.
With one out in the fourth, Isaiah Pinto reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pickoff throw. Nino struck out the next batter on three pitches.
With one on and two outs, Drs. Stevinsons decided to pitch to Molina.
Two pitches later, Molina fisted a ball over the right-center field fence for a tie-breaking two-run home run.
“They kept pitching to him, which is fine with me,” manager Molina said. “They jammed him. He got enough of the ball to hit it over. It thought the kid was going to rob him. It was right there. If he would have jumped, he could have robbed him.”
Perko’s had a great opportunity to add to its lead in the fifth. Reynoso was hit by a pitch, but Alvarez forced him at second trying to bunt.
Tang followed with a ground rule double to deep center to put runners at second and third. David Moles tried a squeeze, but Alvarez was tagged out at the plate.
After an intentional walk to load the bases, Tang tried to score on a wild pitch, but was tagged out to end the inning without a run.
Molina allowed a lead-off single to Gilbert Moisa before a strikeout ended his night on a pitch count. Moisa advanced to second on an error and went to third on a stolen base. However, Tang struck out the next batter and got a popout to Adam Arias at third to end the game.
Perko’s played at Reedley on Thursday in the semifinals. With a win, they will play at Sunnyside or Selma for the District 10 championship today at 2:30 p.m.