The last St. Helena Little League All-Star team still playing saw its District 53 Tournament end last week when the Majors were eliminated by Benicia on July 4 in American Canyon.
St. Helena had rebounded nicely from a 14-0 opening-round loss to Napa National with a 3-0 shutout of Vallejo American in its second game. But its good fortune ran out in a 14-4 mercy-rule loss to Benicia that ended its summer run.
“Overall, both of us would say we played a much better game than we did against Napa,” said Jeff Blaum, president of St. Helena Little League and an assistant coach for the Majors All-Stars. “They scored late, but we played them tough throughout the game.”
Against Vallejo American, offense was at a premium. St. Helena used three pitchers to limit Vallejo to just three hits while striking out 12 and walking just two, while Vallejo allowed just five hits.
There was no sign of that sort of ballgame last Thursday.
The two teams in the 11-12 age division ended the first inning tied at 2-2. That was where the score stood until Benicia scored four runs in the top of the third thanks mainly to several St. Helena fielding errors. The fifth inning held more of the same, as Benicia added another run on an error before scoring two more on a triple to take a commanding 9-2 lead.
The Benicia players weren’t done yet. They hit two home runs, the second of which was a grand slam, during a five-run sixth inning that served as an exclamation point on the game.
St. Helena did what it could in the bottom half of the inning when Henry Ray hit a two-run home run, the second long ball hit by any St. Helena Majors players this season, but the deficit was too great to overcome.
For St. Helena, Ray led the way offensively, going 2 for 3 with the two-run homer and a run scored. Adam Herdell went 2 for 2 with a two-run double that scored St. Helena’s other runs in the first inning. Thomas Heil, Peter Oliver and Caiden Taylor also had hits.
The All-Stars in the 9-10 age division also saw their District 53 Tournament end on June 30, with a narrow 6-4 loss to Napa National in Suisun City.
St. Helena had lost its first game the day before in a slugfest against Napa American, 15-11.
It appeared that the second game was heading for a similar outcome after the dust cleared following an explosive first inning. St. Helena brought home four runs in the top of the frame but was one-upped by the five runs Napa American scored in the bottom half of the inning.
Both teams brought in relief pitchers who settled things down for nearly the rest of the game, excluding the one other run that Napa plated in the fifth inning. The St. Helena pitcher who limited Napa American to just that one run in four innings was James Politoski, who struck out five during his outing.
Contributing to the offensive effort for St. Helena were Hughie Davies (2 for 3 with a run scored), Claus Russell (2 for 2 with two RBIs and a run scored), Braxton Ashley (walk and RBI), Politoski (1 for 2 with an RBI) and Andrew Smith (1 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored). Graham Hague also had a hit.
“Really good game and very proud of the kids,” said Minors manager Mark Ray. “Wish we could have pulled out a win!”