But for the 12U Delta Dawgs, it was baseball bliss when playing a tournament in their own back yard at the Sunset Park Sports Complex in Brentwood Aug. 5 and 6.
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) staged the Summer Blast tournament to inaugurate a new competitive baseball season, and the boys from Brentwood and Antioch did not disappoint. Playing for the first time in the older age division, the 12U Dawgs earned a 4-1 record in the tournament, starting the new season with a stellar performance en route to another championship final appearance.
For the fifth time in their last eight tournament appearances, the Dawgs reached the championship arena and finished as first runners-up. Finishing atop the standings at the end of nearly every tournament is not new to the Dawgs, which earned four championship crowns during the past year to augment their finalist awards.
\The Dawgs' first game against the Fremont-based Shaggers saw five lead changes, but after overcoming three late-inning deficits, the local team earned a thrilling 8-7 victory. Eight different Dawgs scored in the game, led by Austin Halter and Cory Lingenfelter. The duo had two hits each. Nick West also hurled four innings of relief and reached base three times to secure the win.
Against the Woodland Heat in game two, Tyler Vistalli and Jordan Meier pitched the Dawgs to a 10-0 no-hit shutout that was saved by two assists from Justin David in right field to go along with his two singles and two RBI. Adam Raudebaugh scored three times and seven other Dawgs crossed the plate to notch the win.
The Dawgs defeated Stockton's Club All-Stars in a close 6-4 contest in the last game of pool play. With no outs and the bases loaded in the last inning,
the All-Stars could not overcome the combo of David and Raudebaugh, who executed the play of the day - a pitcher-to-home-to-first double play to squelch the rally. The All-Stars would hit another come-backer to end the game and preserve the victory for the Dawgs. Raudebaugh also slammed three hits and Devin Clifford laid down a perfect bunt that scored two runs for the Dawgs.
The semifinals pitted the Dawgs against the undefeated Laguna Thunder from Elk Grove. The Dawgs handily won 8-0, silencing the Thunder.
"Throughout the tournament, everyone in the lineup did their jobs and contributed to the success of the team," said Coach John Zamora.
Overall, the Dawgs batted a .400 clip as a team and averaged over seven runs per game against nearly five for their opponents.
With a four-game unbeaten streak and the championship title on the line, the Dawgs were confident entering the final game to face the also undefeated Modesto Bomberz. The Dawgs jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but the Bomberz regrouped and scored 13 unanswered runs, which were aided by uncharacteristic errant throws and glove work by the Dawgs.
"We continue to play hard and get better in each tournament," said coach Sean Halter. "That's what we ask from our players and they did. Our caps are off to the Bomberz team; they played their game."
The Dawgs are continuing where they left off last season, which concluded in July with three championship titles, seven finalist appearances and an overall 28-20-3 record in a total of 13 tournaments. In the final USSSA standings for the Northern California region, the Dawgs finished as the No. 2 ranked team in the "Majors" division as an 11U team in the 2006 season.
In the end, getting up early in the morning or eating on the run to play a baseball game is not so bad for the Delta Dawgs. The team and its fans are doing well, having fun, and enjoying the game, especially if home-cooked meals and the comforts of home are nearby.
- Contributed by John David