Competition in the Northern California United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) State Championship baseball tournament isn't a challenge for the faint of heart. The stakes are high and the pressure to perform is immense.
The Delta Dawgs baseball teams proved more than up to the task, returning home from the Twin Creeks Sports Complex in Sunnyvale exhilarated and victorious, after the 10U Dawgs claimed the title in their age bracket, the 11U Blue and 12U teams reached their bracket's final game, and the 13U Blue and 14U squads advanced to the semifinals before bowing out.
Coaches at every level of the Delta Dawgs organization agreed that the Dawgs performance, top to bottom, was nothing short of phenomenal.
The 10U Dawgs entered the tournament on a high note, having won their third tournament of the season over Memorial Day weekend, but the win wasn't enough to satisfy the team's hunger to win. The Dawgs posted a perfect 4-0 record at the USSSA State Championship tournament, claiming the coveted title of State Champions.
The boys have really come together as a team in the past two tournaments and they've learned to rely on one another's abilities to accomplish their collective goals, said 10U Dawgs manager Aaron Fountain.
The 10U Dawgs opened play with a decisive 9-5 win over Cru's Crushers of Danville. CJ Sneath and Nick DiCicco each pitched three solid innings while Clayton Creer and Mason Fountain provided excellent defensive support.
The Crushers threatened to rally late in the game, but Fountain made a tremendous defensive play at second base to kill the rally, cleanly fielding a one-hop line drive and stepping on the bag at second for one and making a snap throw down to first to complete the double play.
Jason Ochoa, Austin Garcia and Bryce Pryblinski led the offense in the win, as Ochoa dropped in a pair of hits and Garcia and Pryblinski each added two RBIs.
The Dawgs cruised to a convincing round-two win over the Tracy Blues. Ochoa pitched three strong innings in the shortened game and the offense, led by Garcia (who belted a homer and drove in five), banged out 13 hits on its way to a 15-7 win. Andrew Davidson, Cameron Taylor, Sneath and DiCicco each notched multiple hits in the blowout.
The Dawgs faced off with the Crushers once again in the semifinal round and, despite the Crushers stepping up their game and playing them even tougher, the Dawgs managed to escape with a 6-5 win to advance to the finals. Jake Ratliff and Ochoa combined to pitch six solid innings and the defense made solid plays when needed.
Our defense has struggled at times, but we've seemed to overcome our mistakes and find a way to win, said coach Chris Ratliff.
Junior Muniz and Davidson drove in three runs late in the game to propel the Dawgs into the lead, and with the game tied heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Ratliff slammed a double into the right-centerfield gap, allowing DiCicco to score the game-winning run.
The Dawgs met the San Ramon Slammers in the championship game and found themselves trailing 7-5 before unleashing an offensive barrage that produced eight unanswered runs and a 13-7 lead. Ratliff and Garcia drove in two runs apiece in the rally, and Ochoa, Pryblinski and Fountain each added an RBI of their own.
The Dawgs added an exclamation point in the fifth inning, knocking a solo homer to extend the lead to 14-7, then hung on to win by a final score of 14-10, giving the team its second consecutive tournament title and fourth for the season.
DiCicco was named tournament MVP after batting .750 over the weekend (9-for-12) with seven runs scored and two RBIs. DiCicco also pitched in two games, providing invaluable relief.