It was a perfect ending to the magical summer for the Tri-Valley Babe Ruth 14-year-old All-Stars.
With their 3-1 win Saturday afternoon over a team from Tallahassee, Fla., representing the Southeast in the Babe Ruth 14 World Series in Williston, N.D., Tri-Valley ended their summer campaign 14-0 and the Babe Ruth World Champions.
"We knew we could go all the way -- it was a matter of going out there and executing," Tri-Valley manager Andrew Crabill said. "That's what the boys did all postseason."
The win in the title game capped a 6-0 week for Tri-Valley in North Dakota that saw the team pound their pool play opponents, and then have to play two teams from their pool again in the playoffs.
The team went through the four games of pool play outscoring their opponents 56-4, averaging 14 runs per game. Overall, including State, the Pacific Southwest regional tournament and the World Series, Tri-Valley ended up outscoring their opponents 134-23 during the summer.
In the knockout portion of the Series, Tri-Valley beat the North Dakota state champs 6-2 (after 15-1 in pool play), and then Tallahassee in the finals. The first time the two played Tri-Valley won 10-4.
It was two much tougher games in the tournament finale.
"It's like a different mindset when you get into the bracket play part of the tournament," Crabill said. "Our pool turned out to be the toughest. We really thought we would see Wisconsin and Massachusetts in the playoffs, but West Fargo and Florida got it done."
Dylan Souza was named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament. George Schmitt, Grant Hoenninger and Ryan Cooney were named to the All-Tournament Team. Matteo Minnite was named to the All-Defensive Team to round out the individual honors earned by Tri-Valley.
Souza finished with a .529 average, scored 10 runs, drove in five RBI and set the tone from the top of the order.
"Dylan was awesome through the whole postseason," Crabill said.
Schmitt was the most feared hitter in the tournament, hitting .600 with an on-base percentage of .800 from the cleanup spot. He drove in seven runs, scored nine times and earned a leading seven walks as teams opted to pitch around Schmitt.
"George was a superstar," Crabill said. "He was the one signing autographs and kissing babies after every game."
Hoenninger got it done both at the plate and on the mound. At the plate he hit .611, driving in a tournament-leading 11 runs and scoring six himself. He pitched eight innings in the World Series, including going the distance in the championship. He gave up seven hits and three earned runs, and finished with ten strikeouts, including the one to win the title on a vicious breaking ball for a third called streak.
"We always knew Grant was the ace, but we wanted to pick and choose our spots to use him," Crabill said.
Cooney also excelled at the plate and the mound, hitting .500, scoring six times, and driving in three. He threw 10 innings in the tournament, allowing only three hits and two runs. He walked just two batters while striking out seven.
But it was more than just the players that received honors -- the entire team was there, time and time again.
"Jake Tsunemoto was incredible at shortstop," Crabill said. "And Aiden Foley was there to clean everything up at first all summer long."
Crabill came into the summer wanting his team to experience the World Series atmosphere, and he got all that and more.
"I had heard how great Williston was, and I have to say, they were the best host city you could imagine," the manager said. "The entire community was involved in the event."
Each team in the tournament had six local families as hosts to help the visitors, and each team had a local younger player as a bat boy.
"Our host families were amazing. They had barbecues and parties at their houses, and they were there for everything we needed," Crabill said. "Our bat boy Jace was the best. He was on the Williston 10-year-old team, and he was on it from the start. His birthday was on the day we won the semifinals, and the entire team sang 'Happy Birthday' to him after the game."
It was an event the team will always carry with them.
"I am hoping it's one of their best experiences of their lives," Crabill said. "The fact they got there and got it done is something no one can ever take from them. That's a group of boys coming home as world champions."
The Foothill Falcons began their season in great form, advancing to the finals of the East County Tournament last Saturday.
The young team beat Deer Valley and Castro Valley in pool play, then Northgate in the quarterfinals and Campolindo in the semifinals.
The Falcons then fell 2-1 to San Ramon Valley in the finals.
Highlights in the tournament were from: Katie Salonga (junior) with 81 assists, 30 service points and 24 digs; Paige Bennett (junior) with 42 kills, 38 digs and 25 service points; Kaycie Burdick (sophomore) with 27 kills, 26 digs and 14 service points; Lulu Hoenninger (sophomore) with 14 kills and 12 blocks; and Mikayla Bulaon (junior) with 33 service points and 15 digs.
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.