Another tournament victory for Encinitas Juniors

Coming into last week’s Little League Section 6 All-star tournament riding high as the District 31 champion, the Encinitas Juniors squad hit a bit of a speed bump in the July 9 opener.

But after holding on to win that game, over D32 champ Coronado, the ELL express cruised all the way through the finish line, capturing the Section 6 title.

The July 13 championship contest against Oceanside American saw the locals score 11 consecutive runs in innings 3-5, capped by Pete Gagne’s walk-off-three-run homer that triggered the mercy rule and gave Encinitas the crown.

It was ELL’s seventh dinger in three Section 6 games at Hidden Valley Middle School in Escondido.

“It was a generous field for us,” said Encinitas coach Bob Buscher. “The left-field fence wasn’t too deep and we took advantage of it.

“We played very well as a team in the last two games (an 11-4 semifinal win over Tierrasanta/Kearney Mesa on July 10 and the 11-1 title-contest victory). We got a bit of a wake-up call in the first game and I think it helped us.”

In that opener, Wyley Sharp knocked in JP Kraus in the bottom of the first inning, but Coronado came back with two runs in the top of the third.

Kraus answered in the bottom of the frame, blasting a home run with Cooper Dulich on first base. Up 3-2 at the point, ELL added three more in the fifth as Nathan Lawman singled, E.Q. Workinger reached on an error and Sharp smashed one over the fence.

But Coronado had a little more gas in its tank, plating three in the top of the seventh to cut the lead to 6-5. With two runner still on base, and the tying run in scoring position, Lawman calmly got the final out of the game.

In the close victory, Kraus was 2-for-3, scoring three times and Sharp went 2-for-3 with four RBIs.

The offense came early for ELL in the semifinal matchup as Gagne’s three-run homer finished off a four-spot in the top of the first inning.

After Tierrasante/Kearny Mesa — the District 33 titleist — closed the game to 5-3 in the second inning, the Encinitas power display persisted. Sharp brought home Kraus and Workinger with his three-run blast in the fourth, then Workinger matched that with a fifth-inning long ball that plated Kraus and Dulich.

With Lawman and Nick Sando on the mound, ELL had more than enough runs to secure a spot in the championship contest, where it would take on Oceanside American, holders of the D70 crown.

Lights-out pitching by Gagne (two innings, one run) and Sando (three innings, no runs) made it easy for Encinitas on that day, though nothing could slow the offensive train as Workinger hit a two-run homer and Sharp and Jobe Cubillian smacked back-to-back, two-run doubles before Gagne’s game-ender.

ELL is already a couple of games into the next postseason event, the Subdivision III tournament in Rancho Cucamonga. The locals are hoping to play for another title on July 23.