Little League All-Stars Majors: Encinitas holds off Poway National in title game
By Michael Bower
Encinitas Little League entered the District 31 Majors All-Star Tournament as the heavy favorite to take home the banner. Poway National wanted nothing more than to pull off the shocker in Wednesday’s championship game … and it nearly did.
Poway National trailed 7-0 before Dayton Dooney’s grand slam capped a six-run fourth inning to pull the team within a run. But Encinitas was able to hang on for a thrilling 8-6 victory Wednesday, capturing the District 31 title and advancing to the Section 6 Tournament.
“We preach to these kids to never give up and they have always believed in that,” said Poway National coach Mark Bonner, who noted his team came back to beat Encinitas National earlier in the tournament after trailing 7-1. “This is a great group of kids and they showed a lot of fight.”
The kids have plenty to be proud of despite coming up just short in the championship game. The last time Poway National advanced this far in the District 31 majors tournament was in 2000, when the league won the district title.
Encinitas seemed well on its way to 10-run ruling its fourth opponent in the tournament, holding a commanding 7-0 lead through three innings.
But the hundreds in the crowd at the Poway American Little League Field came alive when Dooney deposited a 0-2 offering well over the center-field wall for a grand slam, pulling Poway National to within 7-6 in the fourth inning.
“Any time Dooney comes up to the plate he can hit one out of the park,” Bonner said. “He will at least hit the ball hard. He is the best hitter I have ever seen at this age.”
A solo home run by Encinitas’ Bryce Buscher in the fifth inning made it 8-6, but PNLL showed it still had some fight left in its final at-bat.
Hayden Chinn reached on a bunt and Dooney reached on an error to put runners at first and second with nobody out. But a strikeout followed by a rocketed-liner right at the first basemen, which he turned into a double-play, ended the comeback bid.
Encinitas plated seven runs over the first two innings, using an array of bouncing balls in the infield that found holes, were misplayed or just were not hit hard enough for Poway National to record an out.
Encinitas had four earned runs in the game and six of its runs came with two outs, including all five runs in the second inning.
“They pounded everything into the ground and we just didn’t make the plays,” Bonner said. “I think they had two hard hit balls off Dooney and scored seven runs. I put that on our fielders.”
Dooney went two innings before being relieved by Garrett Van Nostrand. Van Nostrand retired Encinitas in order in the bottom of the third and then kept Poway National in the game after the six-run rally in the top of the fourth. But Poway National was unable to scratch out anymore runs.
“Encinitas is a great team,” Bonner said. “We knew we could not afford to just give them runs and we gave them too many in this game.”
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