Yankees finish second
Victory was within sight for Hal Wheeler in his final game with the Nevada Yankees Sunday afternoon.
But the Tara’s Rebels burst the bubble with an eight-run eighth-inning rally that boosted the Ogden, Utah, club to an 11-6 victory against the Yankees in the U.S. Open amateur baseball tournament championship game at Lampe Park.
It was a frustrating finish for the Yankees, though Wheeler wasn’t disappointed with the performance of his players.
“This was my last hurrah,” said Wheeler, the former Douglas High baseball coach who organized the Yankees summer club four years ago. “It would have been nice to win it, but I’m still proud of the kids who were there.”
The Yankees ended their season with a 24-17 record, including a 9-4 semifinal win over the Sacramento Athletics Sunday morning. This was the second straight runner-up finish at the U.S. Open for the Yankees, who lost to the Sacramento Sultans in last year’s final.
Nevada scored three runs in the first inning when University of Hawaii-bound Darrin Baker hit a two-run homer. David Paganini, a Douglas grad now headed to Sonoma State, added a solo shot later in the inning. The Yankees added two more runs in the third and one run in the fourth to take a 6-3 lead.
Meanwhile, Gavin Garrick limited the Rebels to three runs on seven hits through seven innings. But then the wheels fell off.
“I thought we were cruising,” Wheeler said. “Gavin threw a good game, I was just hoping to get another inning or two out of him, but he’s coming off an injury, he ran out of gas a little and they started getting to him.”
Zack Rappleye’s three-run homer to left tied the score, then Gavin Duckworth greeted reliever Dave Reed with another bomb to put the Rebels on top to stay.
Brett McDermaid pitched the complete game victory and helped his own cause with the bat by hitting 4-for-4.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Rebels scored 15 runs in the fourth inning en route to an 18-5 semifinal triumph against Utah state-rival Smithfield Blue Sox.
The title was the second this month for the Rebels (19-5), who won their Utah amateur baseball Beehive State Tournament on Aug. 8.
Big rallies like this are something new, according to manager Dar Belnap.
“No. It was just one of those things where the guys’ bats came alive,” Belnap said. “They keep hitting the ball, it has eyes, so what do you do? Keep running the bases.”
Adam Castleton, an 18-year-old who is headed to the University of Utah, hit 3-for-6 with a double and walked off with the tournament MVP award. Castleton also tripled and scored the go-ahead run for the Rebels in their win over Smithfield and his two home runs on Saturday were the difference in a 9-7 win over the defending tournament champion Sacramento Sultans.
The win was special to Belnap, whose team is named in memory of his granddaughter, Tara Stark, who was the victim of murder in October, 1992.
“This was a good win for her,” Belnap said. “This is a good bunch of kids, they deserve this, and we had a good time in the tournament. We’ll be back again next year.”
Catcher Brandon Mattingly and pitcher Brian Schultz were all-tournament selections for the Yankees.
Mattingly drove in five runs with a double and home run to support the seven-hit pitching of Schultz in Nevada’s semifinal victory over the Sacramento Athletics. Mattingly’s two-run double in the fourth gave the Yankees a 6-3 lead and then he lined a three-run homer over the center field fence in the fifth to make it 9-3.
No more support was needed by Schultz, who gave up a three-run first-inning home run but only allowed five more hits the rest of the way. The right-hander struck out eight, walked two and was aided by a defense that played errorless and turned two ground ball double plays. Mattingly also threw out two runners on the bases.
Both Schultz and Mattingly are coming to the University of Nevada via Lassen College in Susanville, Calif.
“I think Nevada is getting a quality tandem in those two guys,” Wheeler said. “They’re going to help out up there.”
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