Cubs’ 17th straight win worth Little League title
Off to a rocky start in the South Tahoe Little League championship game Saturday, the Sierra-at-Tahoe Cubs didn’t waste any time calling on their “Enforcer.”
With their first two pitchers unable to consistently locate the plate, coaches Dan Wilvers and Stan Bobman put the championship in the capable hands of the league’s top player Matt Bobman.
Bobman, who started in center field, responded by two-hitting the Meeks Rockies over the final innings as Wilvers and Stan Bobman concluded their extensive Little League coaching careers with a 7-5 victory – the Cubs’ 17th straight win.
“That’s been our problem all year long, finding a second pitcher who wants to bring it against a good-hitting team. Quite frankly, without Matt Bobman we wouldn’t have won the championship. He’s just a remarkable player,” said Wilvers, who managed the Cubs to their fourth league title and second playoff championship in six years. “Bobman gets on the bump and it creates a whole different atmosphere for the kids. It would be like you and I looking at 95 mph stuff in the majors.”
Pitching for the third time in five days, Bobman still overpowered the Rockies, striking out eight – including the side twice – and allowing only two hits with a fastball topping out in the upper 60s and equally hard to hit curveball.
“It feels very good. We won the regular season league championship last year and I was just happy that we made it to the league championship,” said Matt Bobman, who will lead South Tahoe’s 11 and 12 all-stars into district play this week in Reno. “It was neck and neck there for a while, but when we pulled ahead I was pretty sure we were going to take it.”
Added Rockies manager Doug Van Gorden while pointing to his head, “My kids ever since the minors with Matt, it’s been up here. They made the mistakes and Matt came in and hammered us in the third and fourth innings. Everyone knows what kind of athlete he is. The kids actually did better today than any other time they faced him. They made contact.”
Haven Wilvers’ clutch two-out, two-run single in the top of the first inning brought the Cubs even at 2, and then they went ahead for good with some aggressive base running in the second inning.
After a one-out walk to Jack Williams, Darren Perucci gapped a double to put runners on second and third bases. Then Matt Bobman sliced a 3-0 pitch that barely eluded the glove of first baseman Nicholas Heng, scoring both Wiliams and Perucci for a 4-3 Cubs lead.
That may have been enough the way Matt Bobman was pitching, but the Cubs kept pressing. Walks to Jerrel Dutton and Kevin Schlange loaded the bases with two outs.
With Haven Wilvers at the plate, the Cubs showcased their superior team speed. Repeatedly straying well down the third-base line, Matt Bobman finally drew a throw from catcher Nik Mercado and sprinted for the plate. He easily beat the throw home, which sailed over Mercado, enabling Dutton to tear around the bases with the Cubs’ sixth run.
“We like to run. We like to challenge the arm of the catcher and come get me if you can. A lot of times they can’t, and we like to take that risk,” said Stan Bobman.
Added Doug Van Gorden, “That’s just 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds, just not rembering what to do and that’s why they call it Little League.”
The Cubs added an insurance run in the fourth inning. Dutton led off with a double to left-center and took third on Schlange’s single to right. He scored on Wilvers’ infield groundout, putting the Cubs ahead 7-3.
However, the Rockies didn’t go away quietly.
Jharrett Neamo singled to start the fifth and scored on a wild pitch, and Patrick Lewis made it 7-5, coming home on Jared Arnold’s groundout in the sixth. A walk to Cory Vermillion with one out in the sixth gave the Rockies two chances to produce the tying run, but Matt Bobman forced Marcus Mellberg to hit a soft liner to short and then fanned Heng for the third time to end the game.
“How can you complain when you have the tying run at the plate twice in your last at-bat. You have to be as happy as heck for these kids because they kept fighting,” Van Gorden said. “They were worn out, but they’re happy. As long as they’re smiling at the end.”
The championship allowed the intense Wilvers to relax and enjoy the title as he hugged each of his players.
“I feel like we’ve been living with pressure, because we had to win every game when we were 2-2 to win the league championship. Basically these last 17 games, these kids have been living on the edge,” he said.
As for the future early summer voids in their lives, Stan Bobman and Wilvers will have no problem leaving the fun and games to other parents and volunteers.
“My grandkids, that will be the only time I’ll come back. I’m going to ump. I may have seen 18,000 great pitches and three good umpire calls,” Wilvers joked.
“I’ll miss coming out here with the kids and having fun. It lets us be kids again,” said Stan Bobman, who vowed to become a bleacher creature.
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After more than 70 years of operating with a term deemed derogatory by many Native Americans, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.