The Battle Begins – World Series Starts Sunday

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Article from the Loudoun-Times Mirror

The Tri-Valley Babe Ruth All-Star 14’s departed as a team early Thursday morning with Coaches Ron Anderson and Mike Vincent, from SFO. After transferring to a roomier plane in Los Angeles coupled with a 2-hour mechanical delay, the boys finally arrived late Thursday night, landing at Washington-Dulles International. The boys were met by local league representatives and bussed to the local high school to meet the host families.

I finally arrived today (Saturday morning) after catching the red-eye from Oakland at Friday midnight and flying non-stop to Dulles. It was a quiet and uneventful flight, but left the Dronkers, Steve Nathan, the Jacksons and the Santos families bleary eyed and groggy. To all the drivers on Route 15 and Route 7 – we apologize for any weaving or erratic driving this morning! Since we landed in DC, it was only appropriate that our flight had a special mission to accomplish; Ron Anderson called home and put out a request for a California State flag which was required for opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. Saturday. Jeff Santos ran down to Dom’s Sporting Goods in Livermore and purchased the very last one. Since our flight ate up 45 minutes past schedule departure, Jeff, Christina and Steve had only minutes to spare getting the flag to the boys in time for their 9 a.m. procession.

Virginia is unbelievably green and lush. Sure, the humidity is a little high, but the rolling green pastures, giant Colonial homes and thick stands of pine trees
are stunning. I can’t wait to see the sights of this historic area. We are hoteled in Leesburg, about midway between the stadium in Purcellville and Washington, DC (30 minutes opposite of each other). Tonight we took a short drive to Round Hill to attend a barbeque dinner with the team, coaches and the host families at Pete and Michelle Falli’s home (Jake’s, Ryan’s and Cameron’s host family). Burgers, brats, dogs, salads, watermelon, chili, pie and lots of ice cold drinks – a great event to start the tournament off, especially since we missed the Welcome Banquet Friday night.

Tomorrow we play our first game of pool play against the Mid-Atlantic Regional champion from Williamsport, PA – home of the Little League World Series, at 11 a.m. EST. The weather is forecast to be slightly cooler with a chance of showers – mid-80’s with humidty of course. I will not be webcasting the game as a professional company will be there to do this job. Unfortunately they charge for their services – $15 unlimited viewing of each and every game of the tournament. I will be filming however for the end of season video and will write-up the play-by-play.

To subscribe to the webcast, go to:

To read about the standings of all games, go to:


Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

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Sorry this is so late, but I decided to leave Arizona directly after the game and just arrived home today (Sunday). You probably know this by now – Tri-Valley Babe Ruth All Star 14’s won the 2010 Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament in 4 straight, beating the State Champions from Utah and Southern California in the preliminaries; Hawaii in the semifinals and Southern California (again) in the Championship game.
You have to hand it to So-Cal for their tenacity, though. After dropping them into the loser bracket Wednesday night, So-Cal had to beat their opponent on Thursday (a day off for TVBR), and win BOTH games of a double-header scheduled on Friday – and they did it winning all three to claw their way back to Saturday’s Championship game and in 110 degree heat to boot!
Playing in the finals is awesome of course, but the Arizona hosts provided an unforgettable, special treat to both teams playing in the Championship game; it was going to be played in Surprise Stadium – a baseball-only facility used by the Major Leaguers during their Spring Training games. It’s a grand field and it was thrilling just to walk through the turnstyles knowing your son was going to play inside.

As you walk past the gate, a left turn opens to a wide promenande with all the American/Cactus League MLB flags flapping in the wind atop the centerfield concession building – and then you see it. As you walk past the corner of the building turning your head to the right, the green grass of the outfield and the perfectly flat infield unfolds until you see the entire facility. With two levels of seating, the upper deck overhangs and shades the field-level seats; the hot Arizona sun glints off of the luxury and press box windows; a huge jumbotron scoreboard, already lit-up showing Northern California and Southern California as today’s teams, stood over left field. The traditional green batter’s eye in staight-away center was enormous and the kooky, colorful billboards from local sponsors paraded around the outfield walls between gleaming yellow foul poles.

The sky was littered with the cloudy remains of the summer storm that dumped rain most of the morning and left the air muggy and hot. While the 13 year old final game was finishing up, Tri-Valley and Westchester boys filed in and sat in the stands to watch the last inning. Once that game was over, the field crew got to work and prepped the infield for the last “big” game of the tournament and the teams set-up their bags in a real, step-down dugout complete with benches at the front for everyone to stand on and lean over the rail – just like the bigs. Our boys were so calm and relaxed, as if they played in stadiums all the time.

After the announcer introduced the players and the National Anthem was sung, TVBR raced to their positions to start the game as the home team. Casey Soltis was our starting lefty pitcher and struggled a bit with the zone, walking the first batter and giving up a basehit to the next one. The third hitter attempted a bunt, but popped-up instead and Daniel Jackson (C) gloved it for the first out. The next batter walked again to load the bases. With one out, Westchester #40 hit a Texas-leaguer (high pop up to shallow right field) which appeared to fall right into Shawn Vincent’s glove…then fell right out for an error and their first run. With bases loaded again, #24 smoked a grounder to Cam Santos (SS) at short who flipped it to Brad Pluschkell (2B) who relayed it quickly to Jake Dronkers at 1st for a double play to end any further damage.

Westchester #11 took the hill and Josh Sprugasci (CF) led off with a monster smash to right for a stand-up double. On a passed ball to Soltis, speedy Spru sprinted all the way to 3rd. Soltis’ pop-up to right field looked like an easy catch to the waiting fielder when the ball suddenly appeared on the ground for an RBI single. DJ hit his 2-2 pitch right back to mound where the pitcher gloved it and tossed the ball to 2nd, but not in time, then the throw to 1B was overthrown allowing Soltis to 3rd with the ball rolling into their own dugout (dead ball) giving Soltis a free pass to the plate and DJ to 2nd.

Dronkers stepped-up to the plate and was beaned on the first pitch to put runners at 1st and 2nd. Ryan Anderson (LF) hit into a fielder’s choice taking Dronkers out at 2nd, putting DJ at 3rd and Anderson at 1. Noah Robbins (3B) took his first pitch while Anderson stole 2nd safely. Robbins then reached on an error and another run for TVBR plated. Vincent hit a sac fly to right to score DJ before the end of the inning. 4-1 TVBR.

Westchester led-off with a walk to #18 and #11 hit into a fielder’s choice, but not before Dronkers nearly flipped over the rail into the 1st base dugout chasing a foul ball – the umpire actually grabbed Jake’s pants to prevent a complete tumble. The next two hitters were out on a pop-up to left and strike out respectively.

Westchester came back to life in the fourth leading off with a basehit to right followed by a reach on a bobbled grounder to Santos putting runners at 1 and 2. With an attempted look-back at the 2nd base runner, the umpire ruled a balk on Soltis advancing runners to 2nd and 3rd. The next batter saw an inside wild pitch allowing a run and a move-up to 3rd. On a 1-2 count #18 hit a comebacker to the mound with Soltis scooping the grounder and started a rundown between 3rd and home. Unfortunately the throw to DJ was high and the runner slid safely into home under the tag.

With a runner at 2nd, #11 hit a grounder directly to Santos at short catching the runner off the bag, who decided to continue to 3rd with Santos in tow – Santos was faster and tagged the runner for the 1st out. Soltis issued another walk on 3-2 and was replaced with ace, Sam Nathan. His first batter flied out to left on a great running catch by Kyle Franco. The next batter hit a high one into right field foul territory with Dronkers giving chase and recreating the famous Willie Mays over-the-shoulder basket catch from the 1954 World Series between the Giants and the Indians. 4-3 TVBR.

The bottom of the fourth saw TVBR’s 5th run. Nathan started off with a ground out, followed by Santos’ flair single to shallow center. Sprugasci took his 2-2 count to short for a fielder’s choice and stole 2nd with Soltis at the plate. Soltis roped a single down the right foul line for an RBI. 5-3 TVBR.

Nathan then faced 4 batters in the 5th without any trouble. Westchester swapped pitchers to face Dronkers who grounded to 3rd, but the baseman decided to wait in the hole for the ball to come to him instead of charging and Jakey D ended up with infield hit. Keith DeHollander came in to run for Dronkers at 1st and advanced to 2nd on Anderson’s fielder’s choice. Robbins hit a flair to center for an RBI single making the score 6-3 TVBR.

Nathan made short work in the 6th retiring the side with only 8 pitches. David Gomez led off the bottom of the 6th with a basehit to right field and advanced to 2nd on Spru’s sac bunt. DJ walked after Soltis flew out to center, and Dronkers earned his 2nd hit with a grounder to 3rd. With bases loaded, Westchester got out of a big jam inducing Anderson to pop up to right.

With only 3 outs remaining for the title, Nathan gave up a basehit to the lead-off and 2nd batters. With runners at 1st and 2nd, coach Paul replaced Nathan with Dronkers for the save. Jakey D allowed a fielder’s choice getting the runner at 2nd but putting runners at the corners. The next grounder to short was bobbled allowing a run. Now with runners at 1st and 2nd, Dronkers struck #40 out with 3 straight pitches and after throwing 2 consecutive balls to the next batter, struck him out with the next 3 for the save and TVBR wins its second straight Regional title and another trip to the Babe Ruth World Series in Loudoun County, Virginia.

The final ceremony provided TVBR with a beautiful hardwood plaque and all the boys were presented Championship medals; Josh Sprugasci and Jake Dronkers were selected to the All-Tournament Team; Daniel Jackson was given the Tommy Jones Victory Award and Casey Soltis was chosen as the tournament’s MVP. TVBR will be playing other regional champions in the Babe Ruth World Series from August 21 thru the 28th in Loudoun County, VA and I will continue the play by play from there!

TVBR says Aloha, Braddahs!

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I have to start this article in the bottom of the 2nd with Hawaii leading TVBR 2-0 (I was late for the game start). The game was moved up from 5:30 to 1:00 as a summer rainstorm (they call them monsoons) was forecast for the afternoon – despite the 109 degree heat. Ok, on to the game.

Hawaii jumped to an early lead, but both sides struggled at the plate. Each team put a smattering of infield grounders and shallow pop-ups in play for outs keeping time in the dugout short. The game was pacing right along and the two run lead was starting to look like a real hurdle to overcome. We finally threatened a run in the bottom of the 4th.

Noah Robbins led off by taking one on the shoulder, followed by a Ryan Anderson fly-out to center and a looking strike-out to Daniel Jackson. With a 1-2 count and 2 out, Shawn Vincent executed on a perfect hit-and-run play by flairing a blooper to right field and Robbins motoring all the way to 3rd. Kyle Franco took his first pitch for a strike and the next pitch saw a classic 1st and 3rd play with Vincent stutter-stepping to 2nd trying to induce a throw, but SS took the throw from the catcher and fired back to catch Noah attempting to steal home for the 3rd out.

The heat was definitely on with both sides being warned to stop taunting the opposing pitchers with good-natured hoots and chants. Josh Sprugasci (starting pitcher) put their lead-off on 1st with a basehit to right, followed by a fly-out to center. Hawaiian #13 – a fire hydrant of a teenager, stepped up and bombed a towering homerun over the right field fence for 2 runs. With this, Coach Paul installed our new addition, Keith DeHollander on the bump. His first batter popped-up to center, followed by two consecutive basehits. With runners now at 1st and 3rd the islanders attempted their version of the old 1st and 3rd classic, but DeHollander was able to step-off to get the firstbase runner in a jam. Trying to keep the both runners in his sight, DeHollander did not commit a throw to any corner until finally throwing to Jake Dronkers at 1st, who looked like he was going to chase his runner to 2nd, but instead fired a strike to Robbins at 3rd to tag the retreating runner for the 3rd out.

Hawaii decided to put a new pitcher in for the 5th inning and TVBR took full advantage of the change. DeHollander was first up and took a pitch deep to center for an out, followed by Cam Santos for the 2nd out on a grounder to short. With 2 out now, Sprugasci worked the count for a walk on 3-1 with Casey Soltis following with a bunt single. Dronkers took the pitcher deep in the count drawing a walk on 3 and 2. Robbins also went to 3 and 2 getting hit by the 6th pitch for a dead ball RBI-HBP. Hawaii swapped pitchers again, but Ryan Anderson, also working the count to 3-2, hit a screamer down the 3rd baseline rolling all the way to the foul pole – in ran Soltis, Dronkers and Robbins chalking up a 3-RBI stand-up double for Anderson. DJ followed with his own 3-1 walk, but Vincent grounded to 2nd for the fielder’s choice 3rd out. Score tied 4 all.

DeHollander remained on the hill to start the 6th inning. His first batter earned a basehit up the middle, but he induced the next two into easy outs. The fourth batter reached after getting beaned on the foot. With two outs and two runners on, coach Paul decided to put Dronkers in for the next batter. His first pitch was a ball, but his next pitch was taken for well-hit fly-out to center to end the threat. The bottom of the 6th went by quickly with 3 up and 3 down for Tri-Valley.

Dronkers started the 7th with his lead-off batter reaching on a basehit to right, but the next batter missed a bunt and ruined their hit-and-run; DJ nailed the stealing runner at 2nd with a laser beam to Anderson’s glove. Dronkers induced this same batter to a swinging bunt ground out, followed by an HBP. With a runner at first, the 4th batter hit up the middle for a fielder’s choice at 2nd to end the inning. Now with only 3 outs left in the game, TVBR needed only 1 run to win and head into the Championship game; the loser would have to play directly after this game with only 30 minutes rest.

The Hawaiians changed pitchers again for the 7th and he kept the game intact to go to extra innings, getting Soltis, Anderson and DJ into pop-ups. Sam Nathan was installed to start the top of the 8th and made great use of his rocket fastball and got a little help from his Amador Valley High classmate, Dronkers. The first batter took a 1-1 pitch to the gap between 1st and 2nd basemen, but Dronkers diving and laying-out facedown gloved the ball with his outstretched arm, got up and beat the runner by a step. The 2nd batter lined a bullet into Robbins glove and the 3rd batter struck out on a 3-2 fastball.

Vincent led off the bottom of the 8th with a infield ground-out, but Nathan took ball 4 on 3-1. Austin Piscotty sub’d in for Santos and forced the pitcher to 6 pitches with Nathan stealing 2nd, and Piscotty hitting a middle center fly out. 2 outs now to Sprugasci, who took an 0-1 pitch right over the 2nd base bag and through the legs of a charging centerfielder allowing Nathan to sprint in for the walk-off win.

The Hawaiians, now in the loser bracket, had to play a 2nd game, which they lost to Westchester. Westchester (we beat them Wednesday night) will face us for the championships Saturday morning.

Side note: This has been a tournament of reunions. First we hooked up with our Taylorsville, Utah friends from last year’s World Series, and today, 3 of our boys reunited with two boys from Hawaii who played on Hawaii’s Little League World Champion squad. Back in 2008, Jake Dronkers, Austin Piscotty and Ryan Anderson were teammates on Pleasanton American Little League Majors (12 year olds) All Star team, led by coach Ron Anderson. That year, PALL won District, Section and Division titles and earned a spot at the Western Regionals in San Bernardino on the famous Road to Williamsport Little League World Series. In that game, we played Hawaii twice (losing both times unfortunately) who went on to win the National and World titles in Williamsport and now two players from this ’08 roster are on the 2010 Hawaii Babe Ruth all star team.

On another interesting side note, Jake, Ryan, Austin and Coach Ron are playing together again for the 5th straight all-star season.  These boys started playing on the same post-season team in 2006 and have won 5 consecutive district championships (LL Dist. 57 in ’06, ’07, ’08 and BR Dist. 5 in ’09 and ’10).  After beating Southern California-Westchester Wednesday night, these 4 boys have now also won their 3rd consecutive California State championships (LL ’08, BR ’09 and ’10).  Congratulations, guys!

TVBR Bests SoCal for Sole Ownership of Best in State

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On Wednesday night, we found ourselves facing the Southern California champions while Hawaii matched up against the Central California champs. Even though a Babe Ruth California State Champion does not officially exist, this game will decide who is best in the entire state. Southern California is represented by a team from Westchester which is a neighborhood in West LA and home to LAX. Tonight we are the visiting team and Jake Dronkers is on the bump to start under the lights.

Josh Sprugasci got things off to a good start blazing a grounder past 3B, followed by a 4-ball walk to Casey Soltis. Jake Dronkers laid down a sac bunt that came to a dead stop not 12 inches from the plate advancing runners 1 base each, but the next two batters could not plate any runners. Dronkers then took the mound and ended the inning facing only 4 batters.

DJ at the plate

Daniel Jackson started the 2nd with a walk, followed by Shawn Vincent reaching on an error by the Westchester SS. Kyle Franco put down a nice sac bunt to advance runners to scoring position; Cam Santos followed with a bean ball between the shoulders to load the bases. Sprugasci struck out on 3 curve balls with Casey Soltis hitting a sharp RBI single past 2B. Dronkers then drove a single thru 3B for another run, but the throw home sailed over the catcher allowing a second runner to score. TVBR 3, Westchester 0.

The 4th saw the Westchester pitcher break down a bit. After Sprugasci’s out on an infield pop-up, Soltis drew a walk on a 3-2 count, followed by Dronkers single to left. Sam Nathan came in to run for Dronkers and Noah Robbins was beaned to load the bases. Ryan Anderson’s first pitch sailed wide past the catcher to score Soltis, then watched the 2nd pitch go to the backstop to score Nathan – Anderson then walked on 4 straight balls with DJ on-deck. Anderson then stole 2B and with Robbins on 3B, DJ hit a towering flyball to left of center for a 350′ 2-RBI stand-up double. TVBR 7, Westchester 0.

Jakey D on the bump

Dronkers continued with a nice variety of pitching that kept Westchester bats cold. However, in the 5th Dronkers got into a bit of jam loading the bases on 2 walks and a basehit. But poor Westchester #18’s second at-bat with 2 outs was a complete flat tire, with Jakey D returning all 4 Westchester players to the dugout by striking him out in 3 pitches for a backward K!

In the 6th David Gomez got an AB pinching for Santos, but grounded out, followed by Spugasci’s reach on an error by the SS. Soltis attempted two bunts going foul, but then squib’d an 0-2 pitch to right field on a perfect hit-n-run with Spru motoring all the way to 3rd. With runners at the corners, Westchester decided on a pitching change. Dronkers took his first pitch for a 380′ stand-up double to center scoring both runners. Robbins stepped up and hit oppo to right to score Dronkers from 2nd. Anderson then reached on a walk, and stole 2nd on a wildpitch, but with the ball caroming off the fence hustled home for another run. With frustration mounting on the new pitcher, DJ took a low fastball to the left upper thigh with what appeared to be an intentional beaning. DJ gritted his teeth all the way to first.

After Dronkers finished his warm-ups, Jake hit the first batter with his first pitch right in the helmet; thankfully the batter was ok and jogged to first, but with the circumstances of DJ getting hit a few minutes prior, the umpire stepped out and emphatically warned Dronkers and both dugouts for the beaning assuming it was intentional. Despite the warning, the Westchester families and dugout became understandably upset, but degraded themselves with threats towards Dronkers to watch his back and that they would be waiting for us in the parking lot. Dronkers attempted another pitch while the Westchester players and families continued their verbal assualt; with his next two pitches going for balls, Coach Paul decided it would be best for Jake and the game itself to replace him with Spugasci. Clearly upset by the on-slaught of verbal abuses and threats and not being able to close for a complete game shut out, Dronkers walked off toward the dugout.

With a runner at 1st and inheiriting a 2-0 count on the batter, Spru struck the batter out looking on a 3-2 count, but not before their runner stole 2nd and 3rd. He eventually scored Westchester’s only run before Spru induced the last batter into a right field pop up. Final Score: TVBR 11, Westchester 1.

Central California-Santa Maria lost to Hawaii so that leaves TVBR as the only undefeated CA team in this tourney, thus, State Champs!

The Long and not-Winding Road

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Tri-Valley Babe Ruth All-Star season is back, retaining most of the boys from last year’s 13-year old squad. Here’s the 2010 roster for this year’s team:
Returning members: Paul Pluschkell, manager; Ron Anderson, coach; Daniel “DJ” Jackson, catcher; Jake Dronkers, pitcher, 1B, 3B; Ryan Anderson, 2B, OF; Noah Robbins, 3B; Casey Soltis, 1B, OF; Josh Sprugasci, OF, pitcher; Kyle Franco, OF, 2B; Austin Piscotty, 2B, SS, 3B; Bradley Pluschkell, SS, 2B; Sam Nathan, pitcher; David Gomez, OF New members: Mike Vincent, coach; Shawn Vincent, OF, pitcher; Cameron Santos, SS; Keith DeHollander, catcher; Brian Hsu, pitcher

The season began with a 2-team-best-of-3 tournament, us and Hayward, which resulted in TVBR besting Hayward in 2 straight for their 2nd consecutive District 5 title. Next up was the Northern California State Championships held in Woodland, CA and thus began the Long and Not-Winding Road; Woodland is 90 minutes (88 miles one-way) from Pleasanton – too close to book a hotel stay, but far enough to be a real drag.
Woodland is a small town with a big Babe Ruth history, celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2005. Woodland Babe Ruth 13-year old all stars went all the way and brought home a World Series Champions banner in 1994 (13 year olds). This year TVBR matched up against Elk Grove, then met Alameda again for the 4th time in 2 years of post-season play; Bel-Mateo (Belmont-San Mateo mash-up) was our semifinals opponent and finally the host team Woodland for the championship game. After 4 round-trips to Woodland totaling 704 miles and 12 hours of driving, TVBR brought home their 2nd consecutive NorCal State Championship title with a 4-0 performance. On to the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament!
The 2010 host for the Regional event is Surprise, Arizona – a suburb on the northern edge of the gigantic Phoenix-Glendale-Scottsdale metropolis. This time, the tournament is definitely far enough to book hotels – 715 miles and 11 hours away from Tri-Valley. There is one plus and one minus about playing in Surprise: the event is being held at the spring-training home of the Kansas City Royals, an awesome facility with a dozen or so top-notch fields anchored by a Major-league quality stadium where the final game will be held; the downside of playing in Surprise is the temperature – ranging from 104 to 112 for tournament week!
TVBR’s first opponent was Taylorsville, Utah whom we played against last year in the World Series. Not only did we play against them in Murray, Utah, but several boys were hosted by Taylorsville families so it was a terrific reunion for some of our boys.
Despite the friendships on the field, went to work – after all the loser bracket was going to be brutal and TVBR did not want any part of that. TVBR scored first in the 3rd inning.  Casey Soltis started the inning taking an 0-2 pitch to centerfield for a single; Jake Dronkers flied out to 2B and Daniel Jackson followed by being hit by a pitch. The first pitch to Ryan Anderson got past the catcher advancing runners to 2nd and 3rd.  Anderson then grounded to SS who misplayed the ball allowing Soltis to score. Noah Robbins hit into a fielder’s choice with 2B throwing out DJ at the plate. With Shawn Vincent at the plate, Robbins at 1B and Ryan at 3B, Robbins found himself safe at second on the steal with a bobbled ball by the covering SS that also allowed Anderson to score easily. Vincent roped a basehit to center scoring Robbins from 2B.
The top of the fourth found a T-ville runner plating their first run. With bases loaded, T-ville #12 hit a dying swan fly to center requiring Soltis to layout for the catch, which gave plenty of time for the 3B runner to cross home. TVBR answered back with another run in the bottom of the 4th. Sam Nathan (pitcher) started off with a perfect bunt for a single, followed by Soltis taking his first pitch for another perfect bunt down the 3rd baseline. With runners at 1st and 2nd, a wild pitch to Dronkers advanced both runners. Behind 0-2 Dronkers threw his bat out to slap-shoot an outside pitch to the 2B side of the mound for a sacrifice RBI.
The 5th inning saw THE play of the game. With 2 out on T-ville, their pitcher #24 took a fastball from Nathan high and long to straightaway center. Soltis turned to track it like a wide receiver on a down and in pattern and diving toward the 400 foot sign found the ball in the webbing for out number 3. In the bottom of the 5th Anderson scored on Vincent’s basehit to center making the score 5-1 TVBR.

Anderson scores in the 5th

T-ville threatened again in the 6th getting 3 batters aboard safely to load the bases. The heat was brutal and the setting sun was in the eyes of the pitcher, 2B and 1B at this point in the game. Nathan was able to strikeout the lead-off, but walked the #2 batter, and hitting the #3 and #4 batters to load the bags. With this, Coach Paul decided to pull Nathan and installed Josh Spurgasci on the bump. Spru got ahead 0-2 on his batter, but a curve ball didn’t want to curve and beaned the hitter to score the 3B runner. Spru settled and struck out the next two batters. TVBR put their 6th run across the plate in the bottom of the 6th plating Soltis on a towering double to left by Anderson. 6-2 TVBR.
 With 2 out in the top of the 7th, T-ville rallied with 2 outs and bases loaded. Pitching to the 6th batter of the inning, T-ville #4 took a 2-0 pitch to left for a basehit RBI. The next hitter smacked a dinger to shallow right field scoring T-ville’s 4th run, but Vincent scooped the ball quickly throwing to Dronkers who relayed a strike to the plate with DJ tagging out T-ville’s sliding attempt at another run and ending the game. Final score 6-4..

Our next opponent will be Westchester of Southern California, while Hawaii plays Central California in the other winner’s bracket.  If CenCal loses and TVBR wins, TVBR will be the unrecognized-but-official-in-our-book State Champ.


Diamonds or Coal?


Circle of Friends - Brothers in Arms

Circle of Friends - Brothers in Arms

Manager: Paul Pluschkell, Coaches: Ron Anderson, Mike Piscotty

Players: Nick Allman, Ryan Anderson, Jake Dronkers, Vince Fernandez, Kyle Franco, David Gomez, Logan Hobson, Daniel Jackson, Jack Moroney, Sam Nathan, Jacob Payne, Austin Piscotty, Brad Pluschkell, Noah Robbins, Casey Soltis, Josh Sprugasci

The 2009 13-Year Old Babe Ruth World Series was truly a showcase of national baseball talent for this age group.  It was clearly evident that the host Babe Ruth league and community of Murray, Utah planned, coordinated and regarded this event as THE most important baseball tournament in the United States.  The resources required to stage this amazing event included thousands of volunteer hours, dozens of business sponsorships and a partnership with Murray City Hall.  From the moment each team member arrived in Murray, they were treated as celebrity athletes and given the red-carpet treatment.

What a ride!

Each member of the team started the Babe Ruth season back in September, 2008 during tryouts and Fall Ball.  Babe Ruth in Tri Valley doesn’t start until players reach the age of 13, so this was their “rookie” year and almost all of them came as “graduates” from their local Little League or perhaps a private travel team.  At the end of regular-season play in June, the 5 team managers voted for boys to become all-star members and tournament play began in July.  The road to the World Series is the same for every Babe Ruth team in the country – in order to get to the World Series a team must be a District Champion, then a State Champion, followed by a Regional Champion (there are 8 regions in the Babe Ruth National organization).  Two other spots are reserved for the Host State Champion (Taylorsville) and the Host Community Team (Murray) in recognition of the exceptionally difficult task of hosting an event of this scale, thus creating a 10-team World Series event.  The teams are then divided into the American and National Divisions and are given a 4 games in pool play; at the end of pool play, the top 6 teams emerge to compete in single-elimination quarter and semi final games, ending with the World Series Championship game.

To recap, TVBR was 3 – 1 in District defeating teams from Hayward and Castro Valley.  TVBR was 4 – 0 in the Northern California State tournament defeating teams from Eureka, Oakland, Novato and Alameda.  At the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament, TVBR repeated with another 4 – 0 record defeating teams from Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and the Alameda team filling-in for Hawaii who was unable to attend.

In pool play at the World Series, TVBR defeated New England Regional Champs Leominster, Massachusetts, Ohio Valley Regional Champs Harris Township, Indiana, Southwest Regional Champs McComb, Mississippi, and the Utah State Champion Taylorsville.  As the #1 seed, we were allowed to skip the quarterfinals, then played McComb again in the semifinals and eventually Tallahassee, Florida in the Championship game.

At its core, there’s no difference between the Championship game and the first District game played back in July.  Let’s see, 9 players on one side versus 9 players on the other.  There are 3 outs per inning, 90 feet to the base and 60 feet 6 inches between the mound and the plate.  Ok, maybe there are a few more banners and flags waving at the World Series and the umpires iron their shirts a little longer, but the GAME remains the same.

The real difference at the World Series is how each player and coach takes it all in and what effect it will have on them during and after.  Pressure and heat can produce diamonds or coal – it just depends on what ingredients were there at the beginning.  It has nothing to do with who won or who lost.  It has everything to do with how the winners and losers played the game and how they walked away from it after it was all over.  I write this post as a witness to the greatest game I have ever seen despite my team losing.

Post Game Chat

Post Game Chat

15 players and 3 coaches on each side played and emptied their tanks that afternoon to grab the glory of being the Best Team In The World, but in the end, two lines of boys – just boys – proudly shook each other’s hand, high-fived or pounded knuckles because each knew they did their best. The World Series director handed out trophies to the 4th and 3rd place teams from Mississippi and Indiana, then announced TVBR as the 2nd place team and handed out gorgeous, heavy Babe Ruth statue trophies.  When Florida finally received theirs, each of the Tallahassee players again went down the TVBR line to shake hands with their cap respectfully removed.  It was a classy gesture to say the least.

The last bit of the ceremony was the announcement of the All-World Series Team and the All-Defensive Team.  TVBR represented well on both squads with Jake Dronkers, Austin Piscotty and Sam Nathan picking up All-Series honors and each were presented with a commemorative engraved Rawlings wood bat.  Brad Pluschkell and Vince Fernandez were elected to the All-Defensive unit and received a beautiful mini-Rawlings leather baseball glove mounted on a marble base.

The coaches and parents are finally back to their jobs and homes; the boys finally back in school.  This upcoming season they’ll go back to their individual teams ready to face each other as opponents once again, but I can’t wait to see the side-glances and other little things that can only be exchanged between brothers and teammates who have battled bravely.

The summer was long, but full of excitement with memories that will never be forgotten.  I’m proud of our team and inspired by what this World Series showcased – talent, heart and exceptional sportsmanship.

Final Game a Heart-Breaker



TVBR Fans Swell Stadium Seats

TVBR Fans Swell Stadium Seats

Sorry this is so late, but I decided to head back home right after closing ceremonies. Brenda and my daughter Jenelle needed to fly home, so that left me alone behind the wheel and although Utah and Nevada allows driving and cell phone use, I thought it unwise to type on my laptop while driving. That’s ok, because it took me clear to Winnemucca to get the last inning out of mind.

 By now you’ve probably heard we lost and lost a heart-breaker. After so many wins since July it was weird to lose – not that we were sitting in the stands all cocky and full of attitude…not at all. It’s just that our boys didn’t give us a lot of opportunity to experience losing. I’m definitely having a bit of writer’s block as well. It’s so easy for the words to flow after a win. It’s so easy to recall nearly every detail of all 7 innings. Now, it seems the play-by-play isn’t so important right now. But I do owe it to everyone who followed the previous posts to describe our last Championship Game.

Once again, it was another hot day and muggy with humidity climbing. I stood on the grass during warm-ups and it seemed even muggier at this level. Today’s starters were LF-Josh Sprugasci, 2B-Ryan Anderson, 3B-Sam Nathan, P-Jake Dronkers, RF-Vince Fernandez, 1B-Noah Robbins, CF-Casey Soltis, C-Jacob Payne and SS-Bradley Pluschkell. Parents, grandparents and siblings of course filled the seats early, but the crowd grew with every inning. Coach Paul had a premonition of a coin rolling and falling on heads, so when given the opportunity to choose sides on the coin-flip, he chose heads and heads it was – TVBR took the home dugout at the first base side.

The boys looked no worse for the wear. They did their group jog, circled-up to stretch, warmed-up their arms and had a crisp pregame infield practice. Kyle Franco eased-up the tension by “finding” a hundred dollar bill on the field, which turned out to simply be a fake he planted earlier. Ha Ha. After an extra loud “TRIVALLEY CALIFORNIA” the pre-game huddle broke with our boys sprinting to their positions. Dronkers walked behind the mound and scratched the letters, “BH and LH” and patted the rosen bag. Before we left for Eureka, Jake’s grandfather, Bill Hubbell (BH) suffered a ruptured appendix and was rushed to emergency surgery thus denying him and Grandma Irene the opportunity to travel to the Regionals and Utah; thankfully he made a thorough recovery and is doing great. Then, as you know, Logan Hobson (LH) fractured his elbow while pitching in the finals at the Eureka Regionals. He was also prevented from further travel because his injury required surgery so Jake scratched their initials into the clay to give them some form of presence.

Our opponent from Tallahassee, Florida entered the finals undefeated as well; they were big, mature and talented. It was obvious this game was going to challenge every member on both sides. Dronkers started off well ending the inning in only 4 hitters getting the lead-off with a looking strike-out. The #2 hitter reached on a single, but the next batter’s grounder beaned the runner from 1st enroute to 2nd base for the automatic out, followed by a fielder’s choice to a diving SS-Brad Pluschkell.

TVBR plated the first run of the game. Florida’s lefty threw hard and caught our lead-off, Sprugasci off-guard for a strike-out. Realizing the plate umpire’s zone was the most compact of the Series, Anderson patiently worked a 3-2 count for a walk, followed by Nathan’s walk in 4-straight pitches. Dronkers hit into a fielder’s choice putting Nathan out and advancing Anderson to 3rd. Fernandez was hit on the shoulder and with bases loaded, Robbins patiently induced the pitcher into an RBI-walk. Although hitting balls hard and deep to the grass throughout the tournament, outfielders were prepared and tracked another Soltis fly ball for an out.

Because of the cropped-down zone, the corners were difficult to target and not wanting to walk anyone, pitches were force-fed into the hitters’ proverbial “kitchen”. Dronkers beaned the first batter to start the 2nd inning, however, followed by 9 hitters putting the ball into play, with 6 of them crossing the plate before ending this long inning. Considering the gravity of the game, and with the corners removed, you go with off-speed and maybe they’ll break training and get out front on the meatballs. Well, with the long ball taken away, they simply dinked droopy flies to the shallow outfield or found the gaps. That’s baseball and Florida is good at it.

The run deficit – the largest TVBR has ever witnessed – boosted Florida and their lefty retired the side in order in the bottom of the 2nd. Dronkers and Coach Mike (calling pitches) did a good job with adjusting to Florida hitters and the compact strike zone, so also retired the side in order throwing less than 6 pitches getting our team back in the shade in less than 5 minutes of play. Now we needed our bats to adjust as well. Our next run plated with 2 outs on a huge hard hit drive to deep center for a 330′ RBI-single by Fernandez bringing the score to 6 – 2, FL to end the 2nd inning.

Florida added a run in the 4th. The 5-run deficit and high temperatures had a way of quieting our crowd, which had tripled since the 1st inning; and let me emphasize the OUR in our crowd. As in previous games, our loyal Taylorsville friends and families came out in TV hats and shirts, and several T-ville players had their chests painted with TV logos, running up and down the fence to boost the crowd noise. But in addition to T-ville, I noticed the Harris Township boys sitting on our side, then the West End boys from Penn and the Leominster squad from Massachusetts also took our side. There were plenty of seats and shade on the “other” side and based on their chanting “CA-LI-FORN-YA” over and over, I’d say there was a pretty good chance they were rooting for us. And don’t forget, we beat T-ville, Harris and Leominster in pool play and still had them on our side – class acts every one of ’em!

Taylorsville boys are Great Fans!

Taylorsville boys are Great Fans!

Coach made some swaps in the 6th relieving Dronkers with Jacob Payne and sub’ing in Piscotty at 3B. Florida managed two more runs here in the 6th bringing the score to 8 to 2. With a win now in their cross-hairs, Florida inserted a new pitcher to begin the bottom of #6. Pinching in Kyle Franco to lead-off, Franco reached base on a walk followed with Pluschkell hitting a grounder to short for what appeared to be an easy double play. Franco slid in hard to break-up the play and I saw the umpire hold up the “out” signal, but Franco did not. The ensuing throw to 1st went wide and Franco got up and sprinted to 3rd inducing a bad throw from 1st base foul territory and Franco went home to “score.” There was no mistake, however, and the plate umpire signaled he was out way back at 2nd, but the circus-go-round allowed Pluschkell a free pass to 2B. With Pluschkell in scoring position, Sprugasci reached 1st on an overthrow, then advanced to 2B and Pluschkell scored easily (8 to 3). Anderson then drove a hard liner to the centerfield gap just outside the glove of the diving centerfielder allowing the ball to bounce even further toward the fence, and Sprugasci FLEW all the way home with Anderson advancing to 2nd (8 to 4). Piscotty then stepped-up again with more pinch-heroics and tapped a flair to shallow right field for a basehit putting Anderson at 3rd. Dronkers was next and hit his patented rocket to short but the fielder’s choice went to 2B forcing Piscotty while plating one more precious run with Anderson coming home (8 to 5). Fernandez and DJ walked, but the last out was made on an excellent attempt to score more runs with a hit to right field.

The top of 7 saw two quick Florida walks and Josh Sprugasci got the call to finish-up getting 3 straight outs and stranding both runners.

"We can do this!"

"We can do this!"

The entire summer for both teams now fell on 3 last remaining outs. The TVBR-lopsided crowd was absolutely nuts with the T-ville painted boys running up and down waving their arms. The West-End boys from Williamsport, PA took up the “CA-LI-FORN-YA” cheer while clapping with both arms outstretched shark-bite style. Even the parents of our former opponents were jumping up and down rooting us on. It’s the bottom of 7, score 8 to 5 Florida and Jack Moroney is on-deck taking his warm-up hacks. With all eyes upon him for something, anything, J-Mo patiently and studiously worked the count in his favor and earned a free pass to 1st. With the crowd noise volume now defeafening, Florida’s pitcher became visibly shaken and walked not only Pluschkell, but Sprugasci too to load the bases with no outs, with each errant pitch accompanied with loud and rowdy geering.

Ryan Anderson then repeated his last inning at-bat with a monster line drive RBI single scoring Moroney (8 – 6). Nathan despite a great at-bat, ended up walking back to the dugout but not before a balk call on the pitcher sent Pluschkell home for another run (8-7).  Then the booing started as the first pitch to Dronkers was too wide to be a mistake and all realized Florida was going to walk him intentionally. I have never heard booing at any youth game in my life, but this one would have made Yankee and Red Sox fans PROUD! After four quick pitches the bases loaded again. Fernandez then got taken in by a crazy off-speed pitch with the zone seemingly larger now, and Danny Jackson hit the ball so hard to short it looked like it would get bobbled; Dronkers absolutely rolled down the tracks in a desperate attempt to dislodge the ball with a collision, but was out on the force to end this heart-breaking, heart-attack of a game.

I wanted to get this out as soon as I could, so I’m going to stop here for now. My next post will be later this evening to describe the post-game awards ceremonies and some thoughts and reflection on our amazing journey. Thanks for reading!


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