The Dawgs headed to Manteca for the April Fools' Weekend tournament, sponsored by the United States Specialty Sports Association, to play against other top competitive travel teams from Northern and Central California.
Held at the Big League Dreams facilities, the tournament featured miniaturized replicas of venerable ballparks such as Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Polo Grounds, and the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field.
The Dawgs organization saw its 11-and-under squad win its first-ever championship crown. The 10U team rolled toward another championship game to finish second. The 12U squad, a four-time champion and seven-time USSSA finalist, entered the playoff brackets only to be eliminated from title contention on the last day.
The championship 11U squad delivered superb pitching, an explosive offensive attack and outstanding defensive plays in its weekend campaign. The team outscored its opponents 41-5 to sweep the tournament with a 4-0 record.
In the opener against the San Ramon Extreme, Max Rethage continued his masterful pitching to run his record to 4-1 this year. Mitchell Zamora closed the deal with two shutout innings for an 8-1 Dawgs win.
Against the East County Rage, Logan Frakes and Connor Radelich combined for a no-hitter en route to another easy 8-0 win that earned the Dawgs the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs.
In the semifinal round, the Dawgs once again faced the San Ramon Extreme. In addition to the Dawgs' hot bats, Brady Navarro rocked the Extreme with blazing fastballs and pinpoint accuracy that paved the way to a 14-0 win, placing the Dawgs in the title game.
In the championship game, the Dawgs met the tough Solano Storm. Rethage and his battery mate Steven Ochoa came up with a pitching plan that included a barrage of change-ups that kept the hard-hitting Storm baffled and off balance all day. The Dawgs started the scoring with four off the gates, highlighted by an extra base hit from Ochoa and singles from Radelich, Prybylinski, Jordan Dempsey and Rethage. The Dawgs scored two more times in the third before the Storm mounted a rally. With the bases full, the Storm smashed a hard grounder, but second baseman Radelich executed a web gem by snatching the ball, rolling on the ground, and from his back lofting the throw to the out-stretched glove of the first baseman to beat the runner by a half step. The Dawgs then exploded for five more runs over the next three innings. Cody Luther opened the last inning with a base hit and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to finish the scoring. The Dawgs came away with the 11-4 victory to claim their first championship.
Rethage and Navarro shared MVP honors for the tournament. Rethage was undefeated and batted .600, with six runs scored and six RBIs. Navarro also notched a win and saved another from the mound and went 8-for-11 at the plate for a .727 average, with five runs scored and five RBIs.
- Contributed by Bruce Prybylinski