State champions: South Tahoe All-Stars beat Summerlin North, claim Little League Intermediate 50/70 Division Nevada crown
June 30, 2016
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Statewide supremacy on the Little League diamond belongs to the South Tahoe All-Stars. The local team of 12 and 13 year olds beat Summerlin North (Las Vegas) in a best-of-three series last weekend, June 25-26, at South Tahoe Middle School to claim the Intermediate 50/70 Division Nevada championship.
"It feels amazing," said South Tahoe's Eric Vasser, who threw 4.1 scoreless relief innings and had four RBIs in the decisive Game 3 on Sunday. "We've put so much work in, we've worked so hard and played in so many leagues — we've come so close so many times."
After losing 8-6 in the series opener Saturday, South Tahoe needed two wins over Summerlin North to deliver the championship. On Sunday the local All-Stars stymied their Las Vegas counterparts 5-1 to force a winner-take-all Game 3, then rallied for a 12-8 win to take the series and advance to the West Regional tournament in the format played with a 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot base paths.
"We never thought we were down — we never did," Vasser said. "We always thought we could come back. We came back and kept fighting, and now we're here."
“We’ve put so much work in, we’ve worked so hard and played in so many leagues. We’ve come so close so many times.”Eric VasserSouth Tahoe All-Star
In the decisive third game, South Tahoe produced a comeback to win the state championship after falling behind early. The local All-Stars trailed by four runs after the second inning and faced an 8-5 deficit following the third — then scored seven runs unanswered to deliver the victory.
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"There were some questions, and we really had to fight back and get the bats going," South Tahoe manager Mark Lehmann said. "That was a nice rally."
In the top of the fourth, South Tahoe began its comeback with a pair of runs on RBI singles from Cameron Lehmann and Kyle Clark that made it 8-7. Vasser held Summerlin North scoreless over the next two frames before the hosts struck again to take the lead for good.
"It wasn't a defensive struggle," Mark Lehmann said. "There was a lot of hitting and you weren't going to win it without offense."
In the top of the sixth, South Tahoe put its first two batters aboard and advanced them to scoring position with a sacrifice bunt from Andrew Lehmann. In the next at-bat, Jaden Aquino lined a 1-0 pitch to left-center field — a one-out double that scored two runs and put the local All-Stars ahead for good
"We were up in the first game, and they rallied and caught us," Mark Lehmann said. "To be able to come back today and do the exact same thing was great. It showed our resiliency. "
With one out and runners on second and third following a Clark double, Vasser put South Tahoe further in front with a two-run double of his own. Vasser doubled to left field as part of a stretch of four straight one-out hits that put South Tahoe up 11-8.
Vasser retired the top of Summerlin North's lineup in order in the bottom of the sixth, and South Tahoe added a run in the next half-inning to take a four-run advantage into the bottom of the seventh. Then the local All-Stars squashed a potential rally with a stellar defensive play.
With a runner on first and South Tahoe two outs away from victory in the bottom of the seventh, Summerlin North's Ryan Schofield lined a shot toward first base. Deven Sukha snagged the hard-hit ball before doubling off the runner at first for a game-ending unassisted double play that secured the title for South Tahoe.
"I jumped up in the air and Kyle [Clark] basically tackled me from third base," Vasser said. "It was an amazing feeling."
In a game that had the makings of a slugfest early, Vasser blanked Summerlin North in relief — throwing four shutout innings after getting the final out in the bottom of the third. The right-hander struck out two while scattering two hits and a walk, and kept South Tahoe in front after its comeback.
"Eric shut them down — he was awesome that was his best game ever," Mark Lehmann said. "He did an excellent job, we played some great defense and we had a lot of big hits — we still made a few mistakes, but it wasn't the end of the world."
South Tahoe had 16 hits in Sunday's Game 3, including 14 from the top six hitters in its lineup. Cameron Lehmann reached safely in all of his at-bats over the three games, and the leadoff hitter went 2-for-2 with three walks, a double, four runs and an RBI in the finale.
Clark collected a team-high four hits in the cleanup spot, finishing 4-for-5 with a double and two runs. Vasser went 3-for-5 with a double, four RBIs and a run, Aquino was 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and a run, and Levi Shambaugh had two hits and an RBI.
"There's four or five guys that can hit it to the fence," Mark Lehmann said. "They hit some great line drives and had some really good at-bats. "
South Tahoe forced the winner-take-all contest with a 5-1 victory Sunday morning, led by a stellar pitching performance from Aquino. The right-hander allowed an unearned run on three hits in 6.1 innings, striking out 10 and walking two.
"Jaden pitched great and we had a good handle on that one," Mark Lehmann said.
In Game 2, South Tahoe scored in each of the first three frames to build a 4-0 lead. Summerlin North got on the board with a run in the top of the sixth, but Aquino eventually escaped the jam — with runners on second and third and two outs, he struck out Harthic Gondy to end the threat.
South Tahoe took a 5-1 lead into the seventh, and got three straight outs to even the series. After Aquino got the first out, Clark came in and retired the next two Summerlin North batters to secure the victory.
For the South Tahoe All-Stars, the state championship marks the first of its kind for a group that has played together since tee-ball. And the team coached by Mark Lehmann, Albert Aquino and Pradip Patel achieved the feat in its hometown.
"It's doubly thrilling to play a home game and do it the way we did it — by coming back," Mark Lehmann said. "The kids are thrilled about it and super excited to get to play some more baseball."
South Tahoe will represent Nevada in the West Regional tournament July 18-28 in Nogales, Arizona. The winner of the 10-team tournament will advance to the Little League Intermediate 50/70 Division World Series, held July 31-Aug. 7 in Livermore, California.
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