A group of Tri-Valley teen baseball all-stars were crowned 14-year-old Babe Ruth World Series champions last Thursday after a six-run, sixth-inning rally catapulted them to victory in the title game in Massachusetts.
For 11 of the boys, it marked their second Babe Ruth World Series championship in as many years, following their win last year in the 13-year-old tournament in New York.
"They wore 'Mission 2 Massachusetts' practice jerseys all summer as their one collective goal was to return to the World Series," manager David Grant said. "Winning at 14 to go back-to-back is beyond special because it's only been done once before in Babe Ruth history."
The boys from Pleasanton, Danville and San Ramon swept through the postseason at 15-0, a record that included perfect runs in the Northern California qualifier, Pacific Southwest regional tournament and the World Series played Aug. 11-18 in Westfield, Mass.
Grant praised the 14 players for their ability to bond with and compete for each other, even though they play on different club and high school teams.
"They train and work very hard at their game, and they understand their roles. Thus, they're prepared to play close games and understand that it just takes one pitch, one hit or one play to turn things around," he said. "They are mature beyond their years."
Tri-Valley opened the World Series by winning all five games in pool play: 2-0 over Sarasota, Fla.; 18-3 over Tri County, Maine; 10-0 over Atlantic Shores, N.J.; 13-1 over Pittsfield, Mass.; and 18-3 over Arlington, Mass.
The perfect record gave Tri-Valley the No. 1 seed in the single-elimination bracket, where they went on to beat the Maine team again -- this time, a 9-3 victory in the semifinal.
In the championship game, Tri-Valley mounted a come-from-behind win against Bismarck, N.D. on Aug. 18 at a packed Billy Bullens Field.
The local boys trailed 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning and were down to their final five outs at the plate before they scored six times to flip the script and take a 9-6 lead entering the last inning. They retired North Dakota in four batters in the top of the seventh to secure the championship.
San Ramon Valley High left fielder Michael O'Hara earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Hitter honors. His Wolves teammate Jack Grant joined O'Hara on the All World Series Team.
Joey Battilega of Amador Valley High and Tommy Gavello of Monte Vista High won Gold Glove awards.
Other team members were Jaden Sheppard (P/1B), Demetre Aaron (OF), Trevor Jackson (C/Util), Troy Nassar (P) and Luke Palfalvi (OF) from Amador Valley, Josh Anderson (P/1B), Max Masajlo (P/OF) and Cory Steinhauer (C/Util) from Foothill, Evan Chevalier (P) from San Ramon Valley and Asher Golden (3B/P) from California.
In addition to Grant, the coaching staff included Dons coach Tony Battilega, Mike O'Hara and Mark Palfalvi.
Looking back on the title run, Grant said, "It's also very gratifying to hear Babe Ruth officials, parents and players from around the U.S. speak so fondly of our players, not just about their advanced abilities but their politeness and sportsmanship as well."
He also noted that Tri-Valley is the only Babe Ruth league in the U.S. that plays on active military installation, Camp Parks in Dublin -- formally, Parks Reserve Forces Training Area. "We truly ingrain what dedication and commitment mean to the league and our players," he added.
The local boys and their families did take in some sights during their Massachusetts trip. With the World Series venue located a couple hours outside of Boston, the group toured Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail and other historic landmarks.
This year's group also continued the Tri-Valley's recent record of strong performances in the 14-year-old Babe Ruth World Series. Last summer's 14-year-old Tri-Valley all-stars lost to New Jersey 8-7 in the World Series championship game in Pine Bluff, Ark.