Little League: Capitola-Soquel survives thriller against Pajaro Valley

Capitola-Soquel catcher Gabe Virgallito blocks home plate and tags out a Pajaro Valley base runner during Tuesday's District 39 Majors TOC Championship game. (Juan Reyes — Register-Pajaronian)

SOQUEL — The Capitola-Soquel Phillies had their backs against the wall going into Tuesday’s District 39 Majors Tournament of Champions title game.

It’s been a recurring scenario for them throughout the tournament.

But the Phillies managed to stay alive for one more game after they defeated the Pajaro Valley Giants, 10-9, at Capitola-Soquel Little League Majors field.  

Phillies acting manager David Talavera was at a loss for words after the game.

“A total team effort tonight,” Talavera said. “It was definitely a roller coaster. A lot of fun to be a part of.”  

Capitola-Soquel has been in survival mode since the first week of the tournament and has won six straight games, including Tuesday’s victory against PV.

“Along the way, we’ve had to do some special things,” Talavera said.

The Phillies began the tourney with a loss against the Scotts Valley Giants in the opening round, which sent them directly into the “loser’s bracket.”

Since then, Capitola-Soquel has gotten past Live Oak, Watsonville American, Aptos, San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley.

The Phillies pulled through, yet again, with a win against PV, which was 3-0 going into Tuesday’s championship game.

The Phillies picked up where they left off after Monday’s win against Scotts Valley. They scored the game’s first run in the top of the first to take an early 1-0 lead.

Noah Piona extended the lead after smacking a two-out, two-run home run in the third that put Capitola-Soquel ahead 3-1.

The Giants rebounded in the bottom half of the third and pulled to within a run after a two-run double made it 4-3.

Yet, the bats continued to stay hot for the Phillies as they poured in four more runs in the top of the fourth to extend their lead by five.

Capitola-Soquel pitcher Noah Piona winds up for a pitch during Tuesday's District 39 Majors TOC Championship game against Pajaro Valley. Capitola-Soquel won, 10-9, to force an elimination game on Wednesday. (Juan Reyes — Register-Pajaronian)

But the Giants wouldn’t go away that easy.

PV also had a big fourth inning, scoring five runs and tying the game at 8-all.

“It was a tight game, back and forth,” said PV coach Andy Garcia. “I’m glad we came back, we were down four. I’m glad the kids showed a lot of heart to come back.”

The Giants took their first lead, 9-8, in the bottom of the fifth and it seemed like all the momentum was swaying in their favor.

Going into the sixth and with the season on the line, Talavera said he told the team he was proud of them no matter the outcome.

“I told them if the season ended right then and there that it was a great year and great run in the playoffs,” Talavera said. “But let’s see if we could do something special. We’ve done it before.”

The Phillies’ players responded and took back the lead after scoring twice in the top of the sixth.

The Giants continued to show signs of life in their last at-bat, beginning with a pair of base hits. The base runners moved into scoring position and were on the verge of reaching home plate. But with the bases loaded, Phillies pitcher Aiden Rathert got out of the jam by picking up three consecutive outs for the win.

Garcia said the team had one too many mental errors, which came back to haunt them later in the game. But, he still believes they’re in good shape for today’s elimination game.

“We’re just one step away,” Garcia said.

The Phillies and Giants square off once again today at CSLL Majors Field with the first pitch slated at 5:30 p.m.

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