Tri-Valley Babe Ruth 14 Year Old World Champions

Today started out like most days – the sun rose in the east and we switched on the morning news to catch the weather update with a hot cup of coffee. History does repeat itself occasionally, because that’s exactly how our day started the last time we were scheduled to play Tallahassee in the World Series final game in Utah in ’09. Today, we would face them again at 1:00 p.m. at Fireman’s Field in Purcellville, VA to avenge our loss last year and with no other goal than to bring home ALL the hardware and the National Title. One Team. One Goal.

History not only repeats itself, but mirrors the present sometimes as well. I did a little research and discovered an amazing set of time-warped parallels.

The California-100 Regiment Civil War Flag

The entire area we called home for the past 10 days is filled with the ghosts and legacies of the American Revolution and the Civil War. During the Civil War, Florida joined the Confederacy and California aligned with the Union. In August of 1863, a regiment of California volunteers known simply as “The Hundred” joined the ranks of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry and descended into…believe it or not, Loudoun County, VA and set-up base camp not far from Purcellville. It was here they did battle against Mosby’s Raiders, a detachment of the famous Col. JEB Stuart, and on August 24 the CAL-100 sent the Confederate troops packing after one of the Californians lodged a bullet in Mosby’s thigh. A single bullet.

Now, 147 years and 4 days later, the Californians returned to Loudoun County, VA and sent our Southern opponent from Florida home after one hell of a fight and, like the single bullet in Mosby’s thigh, one run was all it took.

“…all of a sudden it became a hand-to-hand affair. It was soon evident that he was in for a whipping. The Californians, especially notoriously good fighters, were standing up to the rack like men, dealing out the best they had. They rallied at every call and fought the battle bravely with banners flying.” John Munson, commenting on the California 100 during their battle with Mosby’s Raiders.

This blog is going to be so much more fun to write than last year’s! Here we go!

As visitors we were at the plate first and rotated right out going 1-2-3. Jake Dronkers (P) then took the hill and on his first pitch, gave up a deep fly ball for a double to right of center. Despite the devastating first hit, Dronkers induced the second hitter, #44 to a pop-up right over the mound, followed by another pop-up to Casey Soltis (1B) and then struck out #20 on a full-count pitch to end the inning.

Jake led off the 2nd by hitting a Texas Leaguer – high and lazy – to shallow right/center which found the grass instead of leather, and Jake scooted all the way to 2nd. Ryan Anderson (2B) hit a fielder’s choice to 2B moving Jake to 3rd, followed by David Gomez’ long fly ball to right to score Jake to take the lead.  The bottom of two was over in a flash with Jake retiring the side in 3 batters with only 5 pitches. 1 – 0 TVBR.

The 3rd was led by DJ who grounded out to 3rd, and then Cam Santos blasted a double to the right field fence, but over-rounded 2nd and was tagged on the baseline with a stellar relay throw. Josh Sprugasci ended the inning with a K. The TVBR boys hustled back out to their spots and Jake again retired the side facing only 3 batters and throwing a measly 8 pitches. 1 – 0 TVBR.

The 4th started off with Casey Soltis popping up to the shortstop followed by Noah Robbins’ ground out to short. Jake singled to right but was stranded on Ryan’s fly out to left. The pace of this game was incredible as the middle of the 4th consumed less than 1 hour. Jake induced the first two Florida batters to fly out to right field, both swinging pretty late on his fastballs. #20 drew a walk on a full-count and #10 batted a nice single to right advancing the lead runner to 3rd. With runners threatening Jake gathered his composure and struck out #37 on a 1-2 count.  The score stood still at 1 -0 in favor of TVBR.

D-mez led-off with a pop-up to first and Shawn Vincent popped-up to 2nd. DJ then hit a long ball to center for an out. Man, the game seemed to be accelerating now. Not to be outdone by Taddeeo (Florida’s starter), Jake retired another Florida inning facing only 3 batters with a ground-out, a strike out and a fly ball to left. 1 – 0 TVBR.  Obviously in the thick of a pitcher’s duel, it oddly felt in favor of TVBR at this point despite our weak offense, but TVBR was at least putting the ball into play more than Florida was and this tipped the balance toward Tri-Valley.

The 6th started with Cam grounding out to short on a 3-2 pitch, followed by a Sprugasci K. Casey singled but Noah stranded him with a fielder’s choice to 3rd to 1. If Jake experienced any trouble with control, I guess you could say it was in the bottom of the 6th. He got his first batter out with a grounder to first, then hit #44 with his first pitch. It took Jake 6 pitches to strike out #8 and DJ quickly extinguished the inning by throwing out #44 at 2nd with a laser strike on his attempted steal.

With the top of seven, all TVBR fans were now saying prayers aloud for insurance runs. Jake led off with a ground out, followed by Ryan’s deep center fly out. D-mez hit a shot to 3rd and hard 90’d it to first for a basehit, then stole 2nd. Sam Nathan came in to pinch hit and drew a walk on 6 pitches followed by DJ’s walk to load the bases. Our prayers were almost answered when Cam stepped up and roped his first pitch for a grounder to short to strand all three runners.

At this point, standing on a ladder filming the game from right field, I am hardly breathing and starting to shake. Why didn’t we get more runs? Florida is notorious for coming back with hot bats when they’re down. Why couldn’t we be the home team? Why? Why? Why!?! I should have been more confident and Jake made me look really dumb. Florida’s #20 grounded out on his 2nd pitch, followed with another grounder to short on an 0-2 pitch. With everyone holding their breath, Jake threw strike one, then strike two and with the next pitch #37 grounded hard to Cam at short who gathered it up gracefully and threw to Soltis at first just like any other routine grounder. Game. Set. Match. World Series Champions and the dog pile was on in front of 2nd base!

This Is How World Champs Dog Pile!

Cam Santos and Casey Soltis were awarded All-Tournament Offensive Team honors with engraved Rawlings bats; Jake Dronkers and Josh Sprugasci received Golden Glove trophies and named to the All-Tournament Defensive Team. Jake Dronkers was awarded Player of the Game and Casey Soltis, breaking all-time Babe Ruth World Series records for most hits and most RBI’s, received the All-Tournament World Series Most Valuable Player trophy!

I believe in ghosts and I believe that their energies remain in the present, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.  Were the California Hundred present to watch us battle a southern state on the 147th anniversary of their victory over the Confederates?  I believe they were and just like the modern soldiers who come out to watch our games at Camp Parks – I believe they were thoroughly entertained today.