Padres down unbeaten Giants twice, capture STNLL Majors championship
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — To win the South Tahoe National Little League Majors Division championship, the Padres did something no other team could during the season — beat the undefeated Giants. The Padres defeated the Giants twice last weekend to capture the Majors crown, clinching the title with an 11-0 win Sunday at the STNLL Complex.
“I’ve been telling them all year that with hard work and keeping your head in the game, magical things will happen,” Padres manager Albert Aquino said. “It means a lot — they’ve worked hard all year and they definitely deserve it.”
In Sunday’s winner-take-all championship game, the second-seeded Padres rolled to a second win over the top-seeded Giants in as many days. The Padres won 11-0 in four innings, riding the momentum from the previous day to a decisive victory.
“It was all about momentum — as soon as we won that first game, I knew that we had it,” said Jaden Aquino, who threw four scoreless innings and finished with three hits for the Padres. “The energy was high — all the momentum was on our side and it was great.”
Cameron Lehmann led off the game with a double for the Giants (20-2), but was caught stealing at third base following two strikeouts to keep the game scoreless. In the bottom of the first, the Padres wasted no time jumping out to an early lead.
The Padres (17-2-1) put their first three batters on base, and opened the scoring on a two-run double by Jaden Aquino that brought home Trenton Schouten and Jacob Dennis. Two batters later, Mason Hage delivered an RBI double — an RBI groundout from Reid Galles ended the inning and put the Padres ahead 4-0.
“We’ve been telling the kids all year to come out and set the tempo from the beginning, then it’s your game to take,” Albert Aquino said.
Eric Vasser led off the top of the second with a single for the Giants, but was eventually stranded on second as Jaden Aquino threw the second of four shutout innings. In the bottom of the frame, the right-hander again struck at the plate — he scored Schouten with a two-out RBI single that made it 5-0.
“After yesterday, the kids were pumped and everyone believed,” Albert Aquino said. “They came to play today and it was awesome.”
After Jaden Aquino retired the side in order in the top of the third, the Padres broke the game open. They loaded the bases with one out to chase Giants starter Devon Sukha, and two batters later Jaden Aquino cleared the bases with a grand slam off reliever Andrew Lehmann that made the score 10-0.
“It got up there in the jet stream,” Jaden Aquino said. “It was my first grand slam of the year, and for it to be in the championship game was key.”
Jaden Aquino’s fifth home run of the season didn’t look like it would leave the park off the bat, but the high fly ball carried a few feet over the center field fence. Travis Lee singled following the home run, and scored on a Hage double in the next at-bat to put the Padres ahead 11-0.
“If you give the Giants one chance, they’ll work their way back in — I never thought it was over until that final out,” Albert Aquino said.
The Giants needed two runs in the top of the fourth to avoid the mercy rule, but couldn’t get a batter on base to spark a rally. Jaden Aquino struck out the last batter he faced to seal the win, sending the Padres to a mass celebration in front of their dugout on the third-base side.
“It means a lot — we’ve come a long way since the first practice,” Jaden Aquino said.
Jaden Aquino starred both on the mound and at the plate while helping the Padres to the title. He struck out eight in four scoreless innings while scattering two hits in a 55-pitch outing, and finished 3-for-3 with seven RBIs offensively.
“He’s got the heart of a champ — with the game on the line and the championship on the line, I knew he was going to bring his best,” Albert Aquino said of his son.
The Padres forced the winner-take-all championship game by stunning the Giants 5-2 on Saturday. A fast start helped the Padres hand the Giants their first defeat of the season, ending a 20-game unbeaten streak.
“That was huge — we were waiting all year to get the monkey off our backs,” Albert Aquino said.
The Padres scored four runs in the top of the first, and had a 4-1 lead after one. The Giants made it a two-run game when Cameron Lehmann turned a two-out double into a run by stealing third and scoring on an error — but didn’t get any closer than that.
In the top of the fifth, Lee stretched the Padres’ lead back to three runs with a two-out double. On the mound, Dennis retired six of the last seven batters he faced to prevent a Giants rally and finish the complete game.
“Earlier in the year, we wouldn’t play a full game — we’d play four, be up by a lot and shut down,” Jaden Aquino said. “We played all six innings and it felt great.”
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