Victoria Northeast clinches Little League championship
It was a contrast as striking as the score line.
The team in right field was huddled, on a knee listening to its coach. The team in left was standing with its coaches, most of them with huge smiles.
The scoreboard behind the left field team said they won 11-3 Monday night. It was a win that clinched a fifth District 27 11-12-year-old All-Stars title in six years for the Northeast Victoria Little League.
Southwest Victoria had dreams of winning a district championship; however, they ran into a team that just couldn't stop scoring.
"It was real fun because no Southwest team made it this far. Even though we lost, it was great," said Clayton Wenske.
Northeast never trailed, scoring three runs in the first inning and never looking back. Austin Farias scored two runs and added three more RBIs. Kaleb Rael scored twice and Hudson Oliver added a pair of RBIs.
Southwest responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the first inning, but Northeast continued to score. An RBI single from Alec Cruz was part of a three-run second inning for Northeast.
Oliver and teammate Rene Rodriguez said Southwest was the toughest team they faced in the five-game district tournament. Their hitting, defense and pitching was better than anything they witnessed, and will serve as a good tune-up for the sectional tournament in New Braunfels.
"It feels the same," Rodriguez said of winning a district title as an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old. "We've never got past sections, so that's our goal this year."
Oliver started the game, but Rael relieved him after four batters.
In a moment of symbolism a freight train rolled by in the distance as he was finishing out the fifth inning. The Southwest batter wound up striking out, like nine of his teammates did on the night.
Toward the end Southwest started to figure Rael out, scoring a run in the bottom of the fourth and the fifth inning. They loaded the bases in the sixth, but they grounded out to third base to end the game.
"I liked that we started coming back at the end," said Wenske, who was 8 for 15 in five tournament games. "They are a hard team to beat, but we came back at the end."
At the end of the game, the teams met on the pitching mound in solidarity and prayer.
When the two teams played Sunday, Southwest pitcher Payton Walk took a line drive to the head during the third inning. More than a few coaches and fans, on both sides, thought Payton might have died.
Payton had some bleeding on his brain. He was sent to a hospital in Corpus Christi Sunday night, but at home, in Victoria, resting Monday. Nearly a half dozen Northeast players visited Payton in the hospital, and a number of players, coaches and parents wore a "P4P" wristband.
Originally it stood for Pray 4 Payton, but once word got out that he would be OK, it changed to Play 4 Payton, said Southwest baseball coach Holly Long.
Long said life is more important than baseball. However, he said Jeff Holly and the rest of the Southwest Little League board allowed him to focus on baseball, and helping his team make their deepest run in the District 27 tournament in many years.
Tragedy was averted Sunday, which allowed the 23 boys on both sides to enjoy a night on the diamond.
Hudson's dad, Warren, played four seasons in the Kansas City Royals farm system. Hudson wears No. 6 because his dad and two older brothers also wore the number during their baseball careers.
Or as Oliver perfectly put it "I just have the love for the game. (My dad) played in the pros so I guess I got his gene."