The Blast kicked off competition in its 13-team bracket on Saturday with a pair of games at the Tracy Sports Complex, edging out Bret's Muckdogs from Sparks, Nev., 4-1 in the first game of the day. In its second game, the Blast offense exploded against Elk Grove's California Sting, avenging a pair of losses, including a 12-0 blowout in the two teams' previous meeting, with a 17-2 win.
Despite a great opening day at the tournament, the Blast entered Sunday's late game knowing it would need a win to advance to Monday's playoff bracket, as two teams in the 11U bracket had already posted 3-0 records.
With the pressure on, the Blast rode strong pitching, stingy defense and timely hitting to a 15-5 win over the Livermore Lightning and a place in the playoffs. And after all the tie-breakers were decided, the Blast was rewarded with the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye heading into the playoffs.
The Blast players and fans got a scare in the semifinal match-up with Petaluma's Athletic Edge, yielding a run in each of the first three innings to dig themselves a 3-0 hole. However, starting pitcher Jake Schwaab found his rhythm and the defense tightened up, shutting out the Athletic Edge for the rest of the contest.
After tying the game in the bottom of the sixth, the Blast earned the win in dramatic fashion, as Conner Barrreras laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Joe Berumen, secure the 4-3 win and set up a showdown with cross-town rival Delta Dawgs Blue in the title game.
Ryan Cook closed out the semifinal game for the Blast, took the hill as the championship game starter, and retired the side in the first inning on just four pitches. But the offense, explosive in the previous two games, went quiet, and the team abandoned its free-swinging approach in favor of a more conservative, station-to-station style of play.
That offensive adjustment led to an early 3-0 lead, which head coach Dan Diaz felt might be enough run support to give the team a chance to win the game on the strength of its stellar pitching and defense.
The Dawgs continued to spray hard-hit balls around the field, but the Blast defense didn't falter, coming up with several big defensive plays, including key putouts at both third base and home plate. Although the Dawgs clawed back to within a run after a two-run homer off reliever Joseph Tolentino, they would come no closer, as Tolentino bounced right back to coax a game-ending grounder to shortstop Ryan Herman, who tossed the ball on to first baseman Ross Herman to secure the title.
Over any long weekend of baseball, hitting comes and goes, but pitching and defense are a constant. It was the Blast's superior effort on the mound and in the field that carried it to the championship, as evident by a stingy average of 2.6 runs against for the tournament. The Blast's Colin Summers was named tournament MVP for his solid defense at second base and shortstop, as well as stepping into the leadoff spot in the batting order when needed.
Also vital to the Blast title was "The Little General," catcher Jason Fackrell, who did an exceptional job behind the dish in all five tournament games, playing a key part in the Blast coming back and winning a tournament in which the team finished 1-4 and in sixth-place a year ago.
The Blast also made a point to thank everyone who supported the team during its raffle ticket sale in front of Brentwood's Safeway supermarkets for helping to make it possible to represent its community with pride.