The Mack boys lost a thriller on Saturday, falling 12-11 to a hard-hitting Turlock team in eight innings in their opening game at the NorCal State tournament in Rocklin.
The same thing happened to this group of players two years as 10-year-olds, and that time they went on to win five straight games to reach the championship game.
They may have lost on Saturday, but they showed up to compete and played a thrilling back-and-forth game against a top-quality opponent that had blown out teams in its Section tournment.
“It was just unbelievable, back and forth, back and forth,” McKinleyville head coach Carlos Avelar said. “Neither team wanted to lose. It was just an unbelievable game.”
Trailing by a run early in the game, the Mack boys scored five runs in the top of the fourth to take control.
Jake Brunner and Tate Saso had back-to-back base hits, before Bryce Gruetzmacher drove in the tying run on an RBI single.
Shortly after that, Rhythm Green drove in two runs on a double to give his team the lead, before scoring himself on a two-run Joe Tanno home run, the first of two for the team on the day.
Turlock, however, pulled one run back in the bottom of the fourth, before re-taking the lead with four more runs in the fifth.
Mack answered again, tying the game in the sixth to force extra innings.
The two teams had a pair of runs each in the seventh, and Mack then scored twice again in the eighth to take an 11-9 lead going into the bottom half of the inning.
But the Turlock bats refused to go down easily, answering with three runs to sneak the win.
“It was by far the most draining and intense game of my career,” said Avelar, who has been coaching for 48 years. “I’m so proud of my boys. They never gave up.”
There were several standout performances for Mack Town, most notably Tanno, who finished 4-for-5 with a home run and a double and scored three runs.
Hunter Carper also had a home run, finishing 3-for-4 with an intentional walk.
Green and Cody Wilson each also had two hits, with Green scoring twice and Wilson once.
Saso had one of his best games of the postseason, finishing with two hits, including a triple, and also reaching base on a hit-by-pitch.
Defensively, he also made a couple of big catches in center field, including one against the wall.
Lucas Jones also had a hit and a walk, as did Jake Brunner, who was once again instrumental behind the plate, despite the 100 degree temperatures.
“He was phenomenal back there,” Avelar said of the 11-year-old Brunner.
Notably, standout second baseman Bode Reininger was sick and was limited to a couple of innings.
“You take Bode Reiniger out of the lineup and that hurts us,” Avelar said.
Carper got the start on the mound, with Green, Wilson and Saso each seeing time in relief.
The Mack boys will now have a day off before playing again on Monday evening at 5 p.m.