Madera American Little League captures first section title
The Madera American Little League 11-12-year-old All-Star team holds its second championship banner of the All-Star season and the first Section Tournament title in the league’s history. (For The Madera Tribune)
After four tries, the Madera American Little League 11-12-year-old All-Star team won the Section 7 championship and will advance to Sunday’s Nor Cal State Tournament at River Park Little League in Fresno.
Madera American blew past the three-team Section 7 tournament. They defeated Westside and Lemoore (twice) by a combined 49-3, including an 11-0 victory over host Lemoore on Saturday morning to capture the section title.
Madera American won the District 10 championship in 1960, 1961, 1981 and 2004, but couldn’t advance past the sectionals. Last year’s 10-11-year-old Madera American League team won the section championship and backed that up with another section title this year.
Madera National won the section championship in 2011.
“It was a really cool feeling,” manager Mike Molina said. “We wanted to celebrate more. At the end of the game, the umpires really didn’t say ball game. They rolled the balls out and took off. It was kind of not exciting.”
Madera American pitcher Dave Ramirez tossed a four-hit shutout and struck out 10 batters while not allowing a walk. Although he allowed two runners on base in three of the five innings, Ramirez was solid, as usual.
“Ramirez was really dominant again and our defense played well behind him, too,” Molina said. Ramirez has pitched 77 percent of the innings for Madera American (28 2/3 innings pitched) in seven games with a 5-0 record and a 0.84 ERA. Three of the four runs he has allowed have come on solo home runs. Opponents are batting .132 against him.
The offense came through with an 11 hit attack. Ramirez hit his sixth home run of the All-Star tournament and Isaiah Monge hit his fifth.
“We haven’t played that good compared to some of the games we’ve played in the past,” Molina said. “We’ve played better. Our hitting has been better than the past.”
Four years ago, Molina started a travel youth baseball team, the South County Colts, with this tournament in mind.
“That’s originally why we started South County to try to get ready for this kind of thing,” Molina said. “We’ve played in big tournaments to get here. We were kind of expecting to be in this spot after last year and how we did. We were planning on to be here.”
Ten of the 13 players are not only returning from last year’s 10-11-year-old section championship team, but those 10 are also members of the South County Colts, one of the top-ranked youth travel teams in California.
“We’ve played in a lot of big games,” Molina said. “These guys are just thinking of a normal day at the office. They are used to it. They’ve been on pretty big stages before.”
After a scoreless first inning, Madera American took the lead two batters into the second inning. Monge led off the inning with a single up the middle. After a stolen base, Ramirez deposited a full-count pitch over the right field fence for his fifth home run of the section tournament and give Madera American a 2-0 lead.
Shohn Varela started a rally with a walk. Kaelei Kajitani reached on an error and Adam Landero singled home Varela for a 3-0 lead.
Monge led off the third inning by reaching on an error. He came home on Varela’s double to left-centerfield for a 4-0 lead.
After a scoreless fourth, Madera American put the game away in the fifth inning. Ramirez started the inning with a single to left. He went to second when Varela reached on an error. After a strikeout, Landero singled home Ramirez. Brian Monges drew a walk to load the bases.
Jojo Cosio forced Varela at the plate, but the bases remained loaded. Murf Gray and Benji Molina each drew a walk to force in a run.
Cosio scored on a passed ball and Monge delivered the big blow with a three-run home run to right-center for an 11-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Ramirez struck out two batters and got another to pop out to Gray at short to end the game by mercy rule, the third time in seven games Madera American has done that to an opponent.