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Jun, 2021

St. Helena Little League Baseball: Intermediate All-Stars earn rare title

Published by St Helena Star, June 26, 2021, updated June 30, 2021
Andy Wilcox  St Helena Star

St. Helena Little League’s 13-year-old Intermediate All-Stars defeated host American Canyon, 9-3, in the second championship game on Wednesday to become only the second team from the town to a District 53 championship since it joined the district in 1973.

The first district title by a St. Helena team was in 2015 by a 9-10-Year-Old team that included current St. Helena High School varsity players Thomas Herdell and Miles Harvey, whose brothers are on this year’s Intermediate squad.

“It’s an old cliche, but this was truly a team win. Every player on this team made key contributions to the success of this team,” St. Helena manager Jeff Blaum said. “I’m so happy for this group.”

Three years ago, these 13-year-olds became only the third St. Helena team to win multiple games in the district tournament as 10-year-olds. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out what would have been their last Major Division season.

“Last year was the culmination of their Little League career at Crane Park. That was heartbreaking for these kids,” Blaum said. “To come back this year and do something this special is such a great reward for them.”

The Intermediates hosted their first two games of the tournament at Carpy Field, downing Suisun 8-5 on June 19 and Benicia 19-8 on June 20. Also at Carpy that weekend, American Canyon lost 7-3 to Benicia and beat Suisun 21-14.

Leading an 11-hit attack against Suisun were Ben Brakesman, who went 3 for 3 with 2 triples, 3 RBIs, a walk, stolen base, and 2 runs scored, and Henry Ray who was 3 for 3 with two doubles, an RBI, a walk, a stolen base and three runs scored. St. Helena’s other hits came from Huck Anderson (1 for 4, two RBIs), Nick Beck (1 for 3, double, walk, two runs scored), Charlie Blaum (1 for 4, walk, run scored), Nick Groth (1 for 3) and Oliver Harvey (1 for 4). Tony Wilmoth added an RBI and Dean Sommer a walk.

Elias Kelly, Ray, Brakesman and Blaum combined on a 3-hitter with 6 strikeouts, overcoming 9 walks.

Against Benicia, Kelly, Anderson and Blaum gave up 10 hits between them but struck out 10 and walked only 5. It was 5-5 after three innings, but St. Helena scored 5, 4, 2 and 3 runs in the remaining innings.

The hosts’ 16-hit barrage was led by Brakesman (4 for 6, two doubles, five RBIs, stolen base, three runs scored), Anderson (3 for 6, triple, two doubles, four RBIs, stolen base, four runs scored), Beck (3 for 5, triple, RBI, three stolen bases, walk, four runs scored), Ray (2 for 4, solo home run, RBI, two walks, four runs scored) and Sommer (2 for 5, double, three RBIs).

Also contributing offensively were Blaum (1 for 4, two walks, two stolen bases, two runs scored), Kelly (1 for 3, two RBIs, two stolen bases), Wilmoth (two walks), Harvey (three walks, run scored) and Growth (walk, RBI, run scored). Kelly, Anderson and Blaum pitched and teamed on 10 strikeouts.

American Canyon hosted the rest of the double-elimination tournament, continuing its comeback by beating Benicia 12-3 in Monday’s losers-bracket final before stunning St. Helena 11-9 in the first championship game on Tuesday. St. Helena led 7-0 midway through the second inning and 9-2 halfway through the fourth, when American Canyon responded with six runs. The hosts tied it in the fifth and scored twice in the sixth to win.

“We won a couple good games at Carpy and felt really good about ourselves. Then we went to American Canyon a got a big lead, but things didn’t work out,” Coach Blaum said. “Royce Hall pitched brilliantly against us in a relief role and their team kept battling. Their crowd was loud and raucous and it would have been easy for us to give in at that point. It would have been understandable to lose focus.

That game saw St. Helena get out-hit 8-7. The visitors’ seven hits came from Anderson (3 for 4, triple, double, two RBIs, run scored), Brakesman (2 for 4, RBI, stolen base, two runs scored), Ray (1 for 3, home run, three RBIs, stolen base, walk, two runs scored) and Kelly (1 for 3, double, RBI, run). Also providing offense were Blaum (RBI, walk, run scored), Beck (RBI), Wilmoth (walk, run scored) and Sommer (walk, run scored). Pitchers Ray, Blaum and Brakesman fanned five but walked seven and allowed nine earned runs.

“In our team talk after that loss, I saw in the kids’ faces a determination that we’d be back the next night and play our game,” Coach Blaum said.

In the championship rematch, Kelly pitched the first four innings and allowed all three runs on only four hits and five walks while striking out seven. Blaum pitched two hitless shutout innings of relief.

The winners’ 11 hits came from Adam Herdell (3 for 5, home run, double, three RBIs, two stolen bases, two runs scored), Blaum (2 for 3, RBI, two walks, run scored), Brakesman (2 for 5, RBI, home run, three stolen bases, run scored) and Sommer (2 for 3, solo home run, RBI, walk, three stolen bases, two runs scored).

Also with offense were Ray (1 for 4, RBI, walk, two runs scored), Wilmoth (1 for 1, run scored), Kelly (walk, run scored), Anderson (RBI, walk) and Groth (walk).

“Elias Kelly pitched an amazing game and even though we missed some early chances, our hitters eventually came through,” said Coach Blaum. “We got help from up and down the lineup with the eighth-hole hitter, Dean Sommer, igniting the team with a couple early hits and an crucial home run. Charlie Blaum has always been the end-of-game pitcher for this team and pitched a perfect final two innings to close out the tournament.”

St. Helena player Connor Cleland was out of town for the tournament. St. Helena’s coaching staff includes Corey Beck, Matt Anderson and Josh Wilmoth.

The team will begin play in the Section 1 Tournament on Friday with a 5:30 p.m. game against the District 64 champion from the Dixon area at Mark West Youth Club Little League in Santa Rosa.

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