IN IT TO WIN IT— Woodcreek 10-11 All Stars claim second Div. 2 State Title
After claiming the 9-10 All Star State Title in 2014, Woodcreek’s 10-11 All Stars were on a mission this year to prove last season was not a fluke.
They accomplished that mission.
Battling through adversity, Woodcreek beat the odds as they pulled out a 4-3 victory in Friday’s championship final over Canyon Creek in Petaluma to claim their second-straight NorCal State Title.
After sweeping through the District 54 Championships with a perfect 4-0 record, the team faced its first share of adversity in the Section 4 tournament with an early loss, but that didn’t stop them from reaching the championship game and beating Lincoln in back-to-back contests to claim their second-straight Section Title.
After a pair of wins to start the state tournament in Petaluma, the team was again on the ropes.
Woodcreek dropped a 10-0 decision in four innings to Canyon Creek last Tuesday and faced elimination in three straight games.
“This group of kids are so resilient and they won’t allow themselves to get down on themselves for too long,” Woodcreek manager Erik Hanson said. “Their mental approach was outstanding. Whenever they were down in the game, or they made an error, or they struck out, a lot of kids would have been down on themselves, but the boys on this team never let that get to them. They proceeded to work harder and get after it.”
The local All Stars bounced back from their loss with an 11-3 victory over Aptos before a rematch with Canyon Creek. This time, Woodcreek flip-flopped the scoreboard and claimed their own 10-0 victory to force a winner-take-all championship finale.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Hanson explained. “We played Canyon Creek last year, so we knew they were a solid team coming into this year’s tournament. They came out and jumped on us early and we just didn’t have an answer for them. But we knew we just had to keep working hard, never give up and just play our game.
“It was pitching by committee on Friday,” Hanson added. “Tyler Blankenship started and actually gave up a lead-off home run and proceeded to load the bases with nobody out. But again, this is kind of who we are. He continued to grind and actually got out of that inning without giving up another run.”
Despite loading the bases, Canyon Creek only took a 1-0 lead into the second inning as Blankenship struck out two hitters near the bottom of the lineup and got another to fly-out.
“At the start he was missing outside a little bit, but his fastball was really working so he went to that,” Hanson pointed out.
Canyon Creek added a run in the second inning before Blankenship got in trouble again in the third with two runners on. Hanson made a switch to Caden Thompson, who got Woodcreek out of the jam unscathed.
Trailing by just two runs, Isaac Hawthrone helped Woodcreek tie the game with his ninth home run of the All Star postseason.
“We played 16 games total this postseason, so that’s just incredible,” Hanson exclaimed. “I’ve never seen a single player do that before. He didn’t even hit nine homers in the regular season and that was 26 games long — he just had ridiculous numbers.”
Despite just five hits from Woodcreek’s offense, the team managed to score four runs. Gerald Hanson gave his team a boost with a pair of doubles, while also scoring two runs. An RBI from Hanson and another from Jake Harvey — which brought Hanson home on a double — gave Woodcreek a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning.
Nearly one week earlier, Harvey connected on a solo home run to enforce the Mercy Rule against Arcata in a 10-0 win during the opening game of the NorCal State tournament. The homer was a byproduct of a smart decision from Hanson and his coaching staff.
“We actually shuffled around the lineup in that game a bit as we moved Harvey from the number three spot to the lead-off spot and he had a great game,” Woodcreek’s manager said.
Protecting a one-run lead, Hawthrone, who came in to close out the game in the fifth, shut down Canyon Creek and sealed the win with a pair of pop-ups to the catcher.
As the final out was logged, the team stormed the field and celebrated their second-straight NorCal State Championship. While players jogged around the warning track with their new banner, coaches celebrated their team’s success as parents snapped photos of their All Stars.
“They’ve won this tournament in back-to-back years and it shows last year wasn’t a fluke,” Hanson concluded. “These boys wanted to win again and they reached their goal.”