The Santa Maria Northside run continues, and Northside is into the championship round after working overtime Friday night in the District 65 10-11-12-year-olds Tournament.
With one out, the bases loaded and the Orcutt American infield drawn in, Josh Castillo grounded a sharp, walk-off single under the Orcutt American shortstop's glove in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving Northside a 2-1 win over Orcutt American in the elimination bracket final on field one at Johns-Manville Park in Lompoc.
Northside, with its third win in three days and fifth victory in the last six days while facing elimination after falling 1-0 to Orcutt American on opening night last Saturday, will play Lompoc at 12 p.m. Saturday on field one in the title round.
If Lompoc wins, the host team is the District 65 champion. If Northside prevails (again), a 12 p.m. game Sunday on field one will determine the tournament champ.
With a 1-1 count on him in the bottom of the seventh, Castillo did not get the pitch he was looking for. He delivered anyway.
"I was expecting a fastball," said Castillo. "The pitch was a curveball (down in the strike zone). I was able to go with it," and deliver the game-winning hit.
Castillo said the hit was not his first walk-off. It was however, he said, his biggest.
Not only did Castillo deliver the game-winning hit, he pitched two-hit ball into the seventh inning before reaching his pitch limit and giving way to Tommy Zepeda, the starting Northside shortstop.
"Josh giving us the outing he did was huge and Tommy, keeping it under 20 pitches so he can pitch (Saturday) is big," said Northside manager J.J. Ford.
"Those two guys are our ace pitchers. We do have a lot of guys who can pitch."
In fact, Zepeda needed only 11 pitches to get three outs after Vince Abercrombie led off the top of the seventh with a single for Orcutt American.
Daniel Salgado drew a one-out walk for Northside in the bottom of the seventh. Zepeda doubled Salgado over to third.
Orcutt American intentionally walked Dylan Cherry to load the bases. Castillo's decisive hit came shortly thereafter.
The game featured a stirring pitching duel between Castillo and Orcutt American starter Noah Farris. Castillo allowed two hits. Farris, who pitched into the fifth inning, allowed three hits before he reached his pitch limit.
Orcutt American starting third baseman Dominick Hernandez blanked Northside after coming on with two on and two outs in the fifth before Northside finally broke through in the seventh.
Before Hernandez denied Northside in the fifth, Farris turned Northside away after Salgado hit a lead-off double in the third.
Northside scored first. Zepeda reached base on an error then sprinted all the way home after an errant pickoff throw went into right field.
With one out and Caleb Murawski on third in the fourth, Northside picked a runner off at second base after the runner went too far off first. Murawski, however, alertly took off for home and beat the throw from second to tie the game for Orcutt American.
Farris did some of his best pitching in the toughest spots. Northside stranded at least one baserunner every inning during the first four innings, including two in scoring position. Northside stranded two more when Hernandez got the last out of the fifth.
Zepeda, with two, was the only player with multiple hits.