The Bandits opened the tournament with a 9-5 victory over the Yuba Sutter Defenders before falling 6-4 to their archrivals, the Delta D-Backs, in their second of two pool play games on Saturday. Their 1-1 pool play record earned the Bandits the fourth seed in the tournament, which pitted them against the fifth-seed Folsom Flames on Sunday morning.
Behind the masterful pitching of Zachary Wong, the Bandits cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Flames, qualifying them for a much anticipated rematch against the top-seeded Delta D-Backs. And the Bandit players were unquestionably up for the challenge, overpowering the D-Backs 13-3 in four innings.
That set the stage for the Super Series State Championship game against the Elk Grove Longhorns. Jack Santos started on the hill for River City. Santos brought his A stuff, limiting the powerful Longhorn lineup to only two runs on three hits, while allowing no walks and striking out four batters in three innings of work.
After Santos mowed down the Elk Grove hitters in order in the top of the first inning, his teammates erupted for four runs in their half of the frame to take a lead they would never relinquish. Skylynd Rios, who was moved up to the leadoff spot in the order for the weekend, got things started for the Bandits with single. Santos then followed with a single of his own, which set the table for Dareon Thompson, who promptly lined a single up the middle to drive in both Rios and Santos and give the Bandits the early lead.
Thompson then stole his way to third and scored on a fly ball to short left field by Will McConnell. The final run of the inning crossed the plate when Tyler Toland singled, stole second, and alertly advanced two bases and scored on a dropped third strike.
The Longhorns scored twice in the third inning against Santos and were threatening to tie the score with runners on second and third and two outs. But Santos dug deep and struck out the final batter he faced to preserve the lead before handing the ball off to fellow pitcher Jordan Chriss.
River City scored three more runs in the bottom of the fifth to stretch its lead to 7-2. Again, it was Skylynd Rios who ignited the rally, singling with one out. Thompson then drove in Rios with an RBI single, followed by an RBI single by McConnell. The final run scored when Santos (running for McConnell) stole third and scored when the catcher air-mailed his throw into left field. Chriss retired all nine batters he faced, two via the strikeout, to preserve the championship for River City.
But the sweetest victory of all came in the second game on Sunday against the Delta D-Backs, a game in which the Bandits played some of their best baseball of the season en route to a 13-3 thrashing of their rivals. Dareon Thompson went the distance (four innings) on the mound, allowing only three runs on four hits, walking only one batter and striking out two.
Tyler Toland led the offensive charge, driving in the first two Bandit runs in the first inning with a bases loaded double. Jordan Chriss followed with an RBI single and Zachary Wong drove in the fourth run of the rally with an infield ground-out. The big inning came in the fourth, when eight Bandits crossed the plate. Shortstop Amaury Reed, who contributed sterling defense all weekend long, started the rally with an infield single. Angel Flores added an infield single of his own with one out and Skylynd Rios loaded the bases with yet another single. Jack Santos followed with a two-run single and Will McConnell drove in three more with one swing of the bat, crushing a homer to left center field, his third round-tripper of the weekend.
Reed drove in the final run of the rally with his second hit of the inning. In total, River City pounded out 12 hits and scored 13 runs, which was sweet revenge for what they perceived to be the unfair disqualification of their teammate and buddy Darius Foster.
It was Zach Wong who got the day off to a successful start on Sunday, as he pitched five masterful innings against the Folsom Flames to earn the victory that qualified the Bandits for their rematch against the D-Backs. Wong limited the Flames to only two hits and four walks in his five innings of work, while striking out seven batters.
Will McConnell drove in a run in the first inning in this one and Xavier Christensen drove in another in the second to give Wong all the support he needed. Jack Santos pitched the sixth and final frame for the save, retiring the only two batters he faced.
On Saturday in pool play, the Bandits won game one against the Yuba Sutter Defenders behind the pitching of Tyler Toland and Jordan Chriss. Toland pitched the first two innings and Chriss pitched the final four, allowing just one hit and one walk in the process. That gave Chriss seven impressive innings for the tournament. Will McConnell hit a grand slam in the third inning, driving in five runs in the game, which the Bandits won 9-5.
But the play of the game was turned in by Dareon Thompson. With Toland pitching in the first inning and the first two runners on base and nobody out, the third batter for the Yuba Sutter Defenders drove a ball to deep center field that looked for certain to be a three run homer. But Thompson turned and sprinted after the ball and with his back to home plate, à la Willie Mays, and made a sensational catch. Harry Cursi, who could not make it to Sunday’s games, also contributed significantly in this one, walking in both of his at-bats, scoring both times, and making a fine play in right field.
The Bandits are fired up for the upcoming Memorial Day tournament in Los Angeles.
– Contributed by Thomas McConnell