Paulie Calderon saw his mistake and knew exactly what to do.
With the bases loaded and the Los Banos Little League intermediate team clinging to a one-run lead after a furious six-run comeback by the Turlock Giants in the District 73 championship game on Friday night, Calderon sent a pitch past catcher Giovanni Gilardi and into the backstop. Turlock’s Trevor Alexander, representing the tying run, took off down the third-base line.
Gilardi got to the ball and tossed it to Calderon, covering the plate, in time for the tag to preserve the victory, and the title, for Los Banos.
“It was a nice play overall,” Calderon said. “I threw a bad pitch, Gino popped up real quick, I covered home plate like you’re supposed to, the runner came, to my opinion he made a bad decision on going, and we got him out.”
Turlock‘s coaches and parents protested, but Calderon was certain he applied the tag in time.
Los Banos led 10-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh after LB starter Avian Alarcon held the Giants to two runs through the first four innings. But Turlock exploded in the final frame, scoring four runs before Los Banos recorded an out. The first five at-bats resulted in a double, three singles and an error. It seemed like nothing could go right when Calderon took over on the mound and the next batter reached on a catcher interference call.
“I had faith in them, but I think they just got a little bit shocked, so I wasn’t worried about it,” Los Banos manager Andy Alarcon said. “I wasn’t worried about them playing, I was just worried about them losing faith in themselves. As soon as they started talking to each other and all that again, it was good.”
Calderon led the charge offensively, with a triple to lead off the game helping LB to a two-run first, a two-run double during a three-run second inning and another double in the fourth, when Los Banos put two more on the board. Avion Alarcon brought three more across in the fifth with a bases-loaded single to right field.
“They were mostly throwing knuckles and curveballs,” Calderon said. “This means the world to us, because we’ve been practicing a long time. We’ve been practicing hard, and stuff like this pays off in the end. Coach told us if we work hard, we’ll get a trophy in the end, and we did.”
Los Banos went 12-2 in the regular season, with just a 5-3 loss to the Mariposa Diamondbacks on April 26 and and 8-6 loss to the Turlock Giants to blemish its record. LB earned the top seed in the three-team tournament, and after Turlock defeated Mariposa 26-14 in the opener, LB defeated Turlock 8-4 on June 10. Turlock defeated Mariposa again in the elimination bracket before the championship game on Friday. Had the Giants won, they would have forced a winner-take-all game on Saturday.