This is the first year the Tri-Valley Babe Ruth 13-year-old all stars have been playing together, but already they are living up the Tri-Valley legacy, going undefeated in state and regional play to earn a spot in the 2011 Babe Ruth World Series.
The team’s players come from three schools in the area: San Ramon Valley High, California High, and Amador Valley High.
Prior to this year, most were playing in their respective cities’ little leagues, where they used little league-sized diamonds. But in the Babe Ruth league, teams play on full-sized fields, meaning 90 feet between the bases and more than 300 feet to the fence.
The larger field can cause difficulties for some, but manager Randy Moore said his players have been working hard since fall to adjust and improve their level of play.
“They’ve shown a lot of dedication to the team,” said Moore, who is also Tri-Valley league president.
“They have a commitment to something and they really spend the hours trying to get better. Part of it is that we’re just out-working other teams.”
The Tri-Valley all stars’ effort was apparent in the Northern California tournament in which they had two close games against Antioch and Bel Mateo that they won 5-4 and 3-2, respectively.
Moore said those two games toughened up the team, requiring the players to hold off their opponents defensively and to come through with big runs in late innings.
After winning the Northern California championship, Tri-Valley moved onto the Pacific Southwest tournament where it showed its dominance by outscoring its opponents 36-5.
Much of the success has been thanks to strong pitching and defense. In a 4-0 win over Westchester, pitchers Devin Rocha, Nick Moroney, and James Moore combined for a no-hitter. Later in the championship game, Joey Matulovich threw a complete game shutout with five strikeouts.
“Our pitching has really just shut teams down and our defense has made the routine plays,” said Moore.
“At this age, a lot of teams aren’t able to do that, but these guys consistently make the plays.”
Tri-Valley also left little left to be desired at the plate during regionals.
Big hits have been frequent, like Michael Pangelinan’s grand slam during the team’s 11-1 victory over Reno.
Centerfielder Ryan Murphy was consistent for Tri-Valley, hitting 0.727 in regional play.
“I like being one-on-one with the pitcher, that challenge of trying to figure him out and get a hit,” he said.
Murphy said his dad went to the little league World Series twice when he was younger, so Murphy is especially excited to be headed to Clifton Park, New York where the 13-year-old Babe Ruth World Series will begin Aug. 19.
For Moore, this will be the first time his team has gone to the World Series since 2004, when his team became the first in Tri-Valley history to win the national title.
It may be their first time going to the World Series, but the all stars are hoping to carry on Tri-Valley’s long record of success with another national championship.
“I’m just excited for the players,” said Moore.
“But once we get there, it’ll be important to get back on that even keel and not get distracted.”