In the 36th installment of Napa Little League’s annual Major Division city title game, National League champion Jimmy Vasser Toyota took down American League champion Melinda Adams State Farm Insurance with a 13-1 victory on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Garfield Park.
“The boys have worked so hard this year, from where we started at the beginning of the year to where we are now,” said Jimmy Vasser co-head coach Eric Bradford, whose team has only one loss. “Our pitchers have been outstanding, our bats were lively, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team.”
With ample run support coming his way, Jimmy Vasser starting pitcher Dylan Chatham was dealing on the mound, firing all five innings. He allowed one run and notched an absurd 13 strikeouts in a game stopped an inning short of the regulation six innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
“I’m feeling good. I was just excited to be able to go into that game,” said Chatham, the son of Napa High head coach Jason Chatham. “I was just thinking about my mechanics and not thinking about anyone on the bases, just trying to look at the strike zone.”
Thinking about his mechanics? At only age 12? That is a coaches’ son indeed.
“Dylan has been our workhorse this year,” Bradford said. “I think he’s close to 80 to 90 strikeouts on the year. He is just outstanding and once he commands his fastball, that curve ball is wicked.”
Jimmy Vasser snatched a 3-0 lead with a first-inning rally highlighted by runs from Charlie Im, Griffin Messenger and Chatham.
The winners broke things open in the top of the third, grabbing a 10-0 lead. The co-coach’s son, Tyler Bradford, highlighted the seven-run rally with a three-RBI single.
“I was just Woosey-Goosey,” Tyler Bradford said. “Keep your hands loose. That’s my whole strategy.”
“That’s his mechanism of being relaxed in the box,” Eric Bradford laughed. “He says Woosey-Goosey and just relaxes.”
That relaxed approach rubbed off on his teammates and his opponents, who seemed to be having fun regardless of the scoreboard. It also allowed Bradford to go 3 for 4 at the plate with two singles, a double and four RBIs.
Melinda Adams was finally able to tag Chatham with a run in the bottom of the third to stave off the mercy rule. The home team did so by way of a two-out rally, with James Neidhoefer singling to right before Adrian Ceja knocked him in with an RBI double to deep left-center field.
Melinda Adams mustered five hits on the day. Ceja notched three of them, smacking two singles and the aforementioned double in three plate appearances. Neidhoefer had the other two hits, going 2 for 3 with a pair of singles.
“As far as the outcome is concerned, I think we could’ve played a little bit better but, you know, that’s the way it goes sometimes,” said Melinda Adams head coach Gary Newman. “But I feel great regardless of the score. It’s been a great year.”
With the win, Jimmy Vasser is crowned as the champions of the 10-12 age division, but its work is not finished. The team advanced to the District 53 Tournament of Champions, where it will square off against teams from neighboring communities beginning next week.
“I’m expecting that we play well, like what we’ve been doing during the season,” Chatham said. “I’m really happy and proud about how well we play together and how close we are.”
Added Tyler Bradford, “I’m really excited. This is the first time. And we’ve gotten here like three times and every single time we’ve lost in playoffs.”
What does Tyler Bradford expect to see from his teammates in the TOC?
“Home runs,” he said with a smile.