The Nationals defeated the Los Banos Little League regular-season champion Indians 12-5 on Saturday to complete an impressive run, going 4-0 in the postseason battle tournament to win the championship.
The Nationals finished the regular season at the tail end of a three-way logjam at the top of the standings – the Indians and Yankees each finished 17-4 and the Nationals went 16-5. But nobody could stop the Nats once the postseason began.
“We were the team – everybody knew about the Indians and Yankees. We were the team nobody knew about, out of the three,” Nationals coach Michael Lopez said. “We really battled everybody all year and we made them earn it in the last game of the season. So coming in I told the guys, we’ve beaten every team. Our losses came against the other top three teams, so let’s just go out there and play our game, and we’ll get it.”
The Nationals jumped out to an early 3-0 on the strength of a two-run Dasan Affonso single, then extended the lead to 6-0 on a run-scoring error and RBIs from Josh McAndrew and Xavier Uribes. Meanwhile, McAndrew kept the Indians scoreless on the mound until the top of the third inning.
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“We were definitely confident, but I knew they had the lineup to get back into it at any point,” Lopez said. “That was the best part was it didn’t matter who they threw at pitcher, we were all over them.”
The Indians scratched out three runs over the third and fourth innings (including an Anthony Gutierrez home run in the fourth), but the Nationals offense put the game out of reach with four in the bottom of the fourth. After two Indians runs in the fifth (courtesy of a Conner Cascia triple), Uribes took the mound in the sixth and salted the game with three straight strikeouts.
“We had everybody available to where we could throw two today and if need be two tomorrow,” Lopez said. “But yeah, I was saving (Xavier) for the end of the game because they hit speed good, and I decided to throw something slow at them first and then brought (Xavier) in to close it out and he did. That was awesome. It was an honor to watch my son strike out the side to finish off the game.”
The Indians, thanks to their first-place regular-season finish, moved on to the District 73 Tournament of Champions and fell out of the double-elimination bracket with a 17-6 loss to Yosemite on Monday and a loss to Turlock National on Tuesday.
“There were hits scattered here and there,” Indians coach John Cook said. “The first night we struggled in pitching, but in Turlock game we hit the ball well. I guess they hit it a little bit better.”
The bright spot for the Indians was Gutierrez, who went 5-for-6 with three home runs over the two games, bringing his season home run total to seven.
The Los Banos Intermediate 50/70 team, which went 12-2 in the regular season, won its first game of the TOC 8-4 over Turlock National. LB plays in the championship game today.