The California Pintos baseball team in the 11 and Under Division of the 2013 River League celebrated a very emotional milestone Thursday night at Taos, after defeating St. Thomas 15-14 in extra innings to secure the league championship.
The Pintos had previously played St. Thomas twice during the regular season, where California won, then St. Thomas won, handing the Pintos their only loss of the season.
"This was a terrific, but bittersweet victory after the loss of Coach Kelly Messerli earlier this year," Charla Friedmeyer, parent of team member Tucker Friedmeyer, said. "At each game, the team hung a banner by their dugout with the message, 'California Pintos baseball plays in memory of their coach Kelly Messerli.' He was never far from their thoughts during the season, which the Pintos finished 13-1."
Coach Messerli passed away March 31. His son Spencer is a member of the team and pitched the final two innings of the championship game.
"Spencer is a rock at catcher and was in that position the entire game, until he moved to pitcher," Friedmeyer said. "The boys are only allowed to pitch four innings. So Jacob Bleich pitched one, Braeden Birdsong pitched four, Luke Ash pitched a partial, and Spencer pitched two, our final regular inning and the extra inning."
After the big win, Coach Messerli's son Kooper presented first place awards to each member of the team, including his brother Spencer.
The team banner, which was signed by all of the players and coaches, was then presented to Coach Messerli's wife, Emily.
Friedmeyer recapped the final moments of the game. "In the last (extra) inning, as the visiting team we were able to score one run to lead 15-14. When St. Thomas came up to bat, Luke Ash had taken over catching and threw this free-pass runner out at third. Meanwhile, Spencer struck out the first batter. The second batter hit a ground ball and Spencer made the throw to Charlie Turner at first base to get the third out and seal the win. After that last out, even though we were all physically and emotionally drained by this point, both the players and everyone in the stands went nuts!"
Friedmeyer shared other highlights of the game. "Charlie Turner fielded a ball and did a spectacular dive to tag the bag and get the out at first base. Luke Ash, Bryce Menhennet and Turner all hit doubles. Braeden Birdsong hit three triples and drove in the winning run in the extra inning and he also made an important catch at center late in the game."
The Pintos and their coaches would like to extend thanks to their sponsor, California Construction Supplies, and to the parents, grandparents, and extended family who supported the team throughout the season.