According to a baseball adage, good pitching always beats good hitting. Hillsborough sure proved that bit of wisdom true on Tuesday night as it rode pitcher Blake Marcus to a convincing 5-1 victory over Palo Alto National in the District 52 Majors 11-12 Little League All-Star Tournament at Middlefield Ballpark.
After outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 26-2 in the first two games of the tournament, Palo Alto National was handcuffed by the hard-throwing Marcus and scored its only run on a sacrifice fly.
“My control was better than usual. I’m usually pretty wild,” said Marcus, who didn’t have any walks on the night. “I just went out there and did everything normally.”
If “normal” means striking out 10 batters and only allowing three hits, then the rest of the District 52 all-star teams are in trouble as Hillsborough looks in prime position to defend its title.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to tip your hat because that guy is tough,” said Palo Alto National manager Alex Byer. “That’s one of the better pitchers you’ll ever see in Little League.”
Hillsborough set the tone early and was never really threatened the rest of the way. Michael Adams homered to start the game and left fielder Peter Love pushed the lead to 4-0 with a three-run home run later in the first inning.
“What was great about today’s game was that we came out firing on all cylinders,” said Hillsborough assistant coach Brian Farr. “We hadn’t been hitting very well as a team lately and our bats really came alive tonight.”
The four-run lead proved to be more than enough support for Marcus, who only gave up one unearned run.
The inning when Palo Alto scored its only run started off with Alec Olmstead reaching on an error to lead off the fourth inning. He later moved to third on Riley Schoeben’s double and was driven in by Eric Maser’s sacrifice fly to left field.
Marcus snuffed out the rally, though, with a heads-up defensive play on Maser’s fly ball, cutting off the throw home and catching Schoeben trying to advance to third on the throw.
Despite an undefeated 3-0 record in this double-elimination tournament, Hillsborough’s wins haven’t come easily.
“It feels like we’re playing in a championship game every night with Foster City, Redwood City National, Palo Alto and us all in the same part of the bracket,” Farr said.
Hillsborough beat Foster City, 3-1, in its first game and defeated Redwood City National, 1-0, on Saturday before taking down Palo Alto National.
“It was surprising to both Brian and myself that we hadn’t been hitting because we have a good hitting team,” Hillsborough manager Gary Goodman said. “I think the main reason is that we’ve faced very good pitchers in all of our games so far.”
Goodman attributed his team’s close games so far this tournament to the quality of play in the area. “District 52 is a superior district. We all have fun, but we all excel,” said Goodman of the local all-star teams. “I think (District 52) is one of the best Little League districts in the nation.”
Hillsborough next will play San Carlos American in a battle between the two undefeated teams on Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m.
Palo Alto National plays the winner of the Palo Alto American-Foster City game on Friday in an elimination game at 7:30 p.m.
San Carlos American v. Alpine/West Menlo:
In the other winners’-bracket game on Tuesday night, San Carlos American beat Alpine/West Menlo, 6-4. San Carlos American scored three times in the third inning to take the lead and then escaped from jams in the last three innings without giving up any runs.
In the top of the fourth, Alpine seemed to be on the verge of breaking the game open with the bases loaded with just one out. Two outs later, the score remained 5-4 as San Carlos escaped. In the top of the fifth, Alpine, once again left the bases loaded while failing to score.
Alpine had 10 hits and led by 4-2 after two innings. Daniel Austin came on in relief for San Carlos and struck out the side in the third. Austin fanned seven in 2 2/3 innings and Alpine didn’t score again. Ryan Klapper led Alpine with three hits while Harrison Armsby added two.
In the District 52 Majors 9-10 all-star tourney at Lakeshore Park in San Mateo, Alpine-West Menlo was knocked out of the winners’ bracket following a 3-1 loss to San Mateo National on Tuesday. Alpine next will play Sunday at noon in the consolation bracket.
Originally published on Palo Alto Online.