By Ray Hamill — When these two great rivals meet, they rarely disappoint.
On Wednesday night, the McKinleyville and Redwood Empire 12-year-old All-Stars faced off for the second time at this week’s District 26 tournament and once it was an exciting showdown with little to separate them.
With their backs to the wall and their season on the line, however, it was the Mack All-Stars who prevailed, winning 2-0.
The result sets up a third tournament matchup between the two clubs on Thursday night to determine which of them will be crowned the 2022 District 26 champion.And fans can expect another close battle.
In the first two games between them, the pitching and defense has dominated, and that continued to be the case on Wednesday.
The Mack All-Stars struck early, scoring a run in each of the opening two innings to set the early tone.
And that was all pitcher Jake Brunner and his defense would need.
The McKinleyville starter was in control all night on his way to the victory, before finally being relieved with just one out remaining because of his pitch count.
Becker Rine came to record the final out and keep McKinleyville’s season going.
The RELL pitching was equally effective, with starter Brayden Bermers throwing three strong innings, before being relived by Kyle Giacone, who was just as impressive and threw three scoreless innings to close out.
And all four pitchers benefitted from some outstanding defense from both teams in what was a very well played game.
Several players on both teams made some big-time catches, and the Mack All-Stars turned a 1-6-3 double play in the bottom of the fifth just when the Redwood Empire All-Stars were threatening.
McKinleyville is now 4-1 in tournament play and has won four straight elimination games on four consecutive days since dropping their opener to RELL on Saturday.
The loss was the first in tournament play for the RELL All-Stars, who had won three straight coming into the game.
Thursday’s winner-takes all showdown is set for 5:30 p.m., and if the first two games between them are any indication, it could be another thriller.