West Side Little League 8-10 team knocks off defending champs to claim District 61 title

The Westside Little League All Stars 8-10 year old team beat the defending champions, the Delano All Stars, on Saturday afternoon to win the District 61 Division Championship. According to west Side Little league President Josh Bryant, “This was the best game of the tournament.”

It was a well played game which saw Taft get the win 7-3 at the end.

The two teams faced each other to start their tournament runs off, and Taft won that game as well by a score of 10-5. Delano played like a different team on Saturday, serving up a much better defense later on compared to the first game.

Taft did grab an early lead in the first inning when Ben Nuncio hit a ball to the Delano center fielder who failed to make the catch, allowing Nuncio to reach second on the same play. Drew Oelke followed that with a big blast over the center fielder for a triple and an RBI as Nuncio scored to give Taft the lead. Ernie Laulu grounded out to the first baseman which allowed Oelke to score and take a two run lead.

It looked as if Taft might be able to run the score up in this game as well, but Delano had other ideas and held Taft scoreless until the final inning. Taft held Delano scoreless as well, due in large part to Oelke's performance on the pitchers mound. He pitched a game that was nothing short of remarkable and could not have come at a better time than in the championship game. Through five innings, he struck out 15 batters and walked one, giving up no hits. He reached his allotted pitch count and was relieved by Nuncio. Nuncio finished the game off with a strike out and two walks.

Taft really opened the game up in the sixth and final inning. Deavynn Ortiz grounded out to start the inning, followed by a line drive to left field by Nuncio. This brought Oelke to the plate. While he watched the first pitch sail high for ball one, Nuncio stole second and was almost caught by the Delano defense. The next pitch to Oelke was a strike and Nuncio took off for third. Once again he had to slide into the base to avoid the tag and was safe. Oelke fouled a ball off, then the next pitch sailed high again with the catcher failing to grab it. Nuncio stole home to extend Taft's lead.

Oelke reached base on a ball four calls and Ernie Laulu came to the plate. Oelke stole second on a wild pitch, then Laulu reached base on a walk as well. Brock Fuller hit a single to right field, which scored Oelke from second and moved Laulu to third base. Lane Cash popped up, but the second baseman wasn't able to catch it, allowing Cash to reach first while Laulu was able to score and Fuller moved to third. Cash ran to second as Delano did not want to take the chance at trying to throw him out and allow the runner to score from third.

Gavin Upshaw hit a double to score Fuller and advance Cash to third base. Colten Streich grounded out, but got an RBI when Cash scored. KJ Downey was the final out of the inning when he struck out. The score was 7-0.

Oelke struck out the first batter of the inning, but had reached his pitch limit and had to be relieved. Nuncio took over on the mound and walked two batters, then then struck out the next batter. With two runners on base and two outs, Nuncio's pitch struck a batter to load the bases. The next Delano batter came up and smashed a hit to right field which scored three runs. As the batter rounded  third, he wanted to be a hero and tried to score himself. The ball was thrown to the catcher who was there waiting for the Delano runner to tag him out and give Taft the win and the Championship.

This win means that Taft will now move on to the Sectional Tournament - which will be held in Porterville. The boys will face teams from Districts 34 and 10.

Also in action on Saturday, the 10-12 year old team played against the Wasco All Stars in a win-or-go-home game.

Taft could not find their stride and lost the game 13-0. It was a close affair with Wasco only leading by one run until the fourth and fifth innings when Wasco lit up the scoreboard.

Taft is out of the tournament and Wasco moves into the semi final game.