South Tahoe All-Stars’ rally falls a run short |

South Tahoe All-Stars’ rally falls a run short

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

CARSON CITY – There were some tears, but by the time the postgame cupcakes and strawberries arrived, the South Tahoe 9-10 Little League All-Stars had smiles on their faces.

Moments earlier, they left their heart and competitive savvy on the field in a 10-9 setback to Reno National in their final game of pool play at the Nevada District 1 Tournament at Governor’s Field.

The loss dropped South Tahoe from a No. 2 to a No. 4 seed for Thursday’s tournament quarterfinals. South Tahoe (2-2) will play Truckee at 8 p.m. Thursday. Truckee (4-0) handed Carson Valley its first defeat by winning Wednesday night’s late game.

South Tahoe fell one run shy of pulling off a comeback that saw it rally from a 7-2 first-inning deficit.

“I never thought we were out of it,” said South Tahoe skipper Joby Cefalu, who has seen his team pull out several tight wins in the weeklong tournament. “If we clean up our game, we’re capable of beating anybody.”

Trailing 10-6 going into the final inning, South Tahoe summoned a rally that exemplified their play in previous games. South Tahoe loaded the bases with nobody out on base hits by Tommy Cefalu and Noah Jackson and a fielding error on Ty Hutton’s ground ball. Reno National pitcher Jeremy Watland temporarily staved off the rally by striking out South Tahoe’s cleanup hitter after falling behind 2-0 in the count. Colin Buchholz then drew a bases-loaded walk to make the score 10-7, but Reno National retired the lead runner at home on Paul Hoefer’s grounder to third.

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Hutton and Buchholz both scored when a high throw from the second baseman on Evan Brewer’s ground ball pulled the first baseman off the bag. Hoefer took third base on the play, setting up a chance for a potential game-tying two-out hit.

Watland, however, preserved the one-run victory by getting the final strike on a fastball that stirred up some dirt as it crossed home plate.

Hutton, Jackson and Brown each delivered two hits. Hutton scored three times while Mori and Buchholz touched home late twice.

“We had a big win last night and then trying to come back tonight. That was tough for them,” said Cefalu, referring to South Tahoe’s 10-9 upset win over Washoe on Tuesday night.

Reno National only hit two balls out of the infield in scoring seven times in its first at-bat. Four walks, two fielding errors and several dinkers into the lush infield grass allowed Reno National to send 12 batters to the plate. Jeremy Watland’s two-run single to left was the big blow and capped the first-inning scoring.

South Tahoe had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Hutton’s triple to the fence in left-center plated Jackson, who reached on an infield single, and Will Mori chased home Hutton with a base hit to center field.

Superb relief pitching by Hoefer enabled South Tahoe to begin chipping away at its deficit. Hoefer allowed just one earned run in 4 2/3 innings on the bump after taking over in the first inning. He threw 78 pitches before being chased from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning because of a pitch count limit.

“We couldn’t have done any plays out there without all of our teammates keeping our heads up and in the game,” Hoefer said. “I focused on putting the ball right to the mitt.”

While Hoefer was driving Reno National hitters batty with a sidearm delivery and a propensity to throw strikes on the outside of the plate, South Tahoe’ hitters began pecking away at Reno’s lead. Hutton led off the third inning with a single to left and moved to second when Mori took a pitch off his batting helmet. A wild pitch moved up the baserunners, setting up an aggressive baserunning play by coach Cefalu. On Hoefer’s infield pop fly between first and second bases, Cefalu had Hutton tag up and force Reno National to make an accurate throw home. Hutton beat the peg to the plate, which was off the mark, and Mori also scored on the play, cutting Reno National’s lead to 7-4.

But Reno National put the “Wham-my” on South Tahoe. If not for the hot hitting of Austin Wham, South Tahoe would have made the game tighter before the final inning. Wham slugged a double to center leading off the Reno National fourth and scored when Matt Smith’s slow roller leaked into left field.

Behind by four runs, South Tahoe had no intention of quitting. South Tahoe pushed across two runs tin the fifth inning to make the score 8-6. Back-to-back free passes to Mori and Buchholz, followed by a wild pitch set up the rally. Watland nearly escaped the jam unscathed by striking out the next two South Tahoe hitters. But a wild pitch allowed Mori to score, and Ryan Brown hit a sharp single to right, plating Buchholz.

South Tahoe gave the runs right back. Consecutive dropped infield pop flies enabled Reno National to score two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. The second drop didn’t hurt as Tommy Cefalu picked up the bobbled catch and got a force at second base. Hoefer retired Watland on a called third strike for the second out, but was out of pitches when he walked the next batter, bringing Wham to the plate for the fourth time.

Wham greeted reliever Garret Harley with his fourth hit – an RBI single to right. Tyler Black also scored when the base hit was followed by an error. Harley avoided further damage by striking out Smith.

With three wins separating South Tahoe from a rare all-star tournament championship, Hoefer is looking ahead to his team’s opportunity on Thursday.

“We were definitely trying to get to the quarterfinals. I think we have a chance (to win it all),” Hoefer said.

Thursday’s quarterfinal matchups

Truckee (4-0) vs. South Tahoe (2-2), 8 p.m.

Carson City (4-0) vs. Reno American West (1-3), 5 p.m.

Sparks Centennial (2-2) vs. Carson Valley (3-1), 5 p.m.

Washoe (3-1) vs. Reno Continental (3-1), 8 p.m.