Dream Comes to an End

The tears lasted about 10 minutes for the San Francisco American 12-and-under all-star team.

Then it was back to smiles and horsing around in the outfield grass for a group that has spent the last five weeks playing — and mostly winning — on the baseball field.

Petaluma Valley defeated San Francisco American 4-3 in seven innings at Lucchesi Park on Tuesday to take the Section 1 title, ending a summer in which this group won a district title for the third straight year and reached the sectional final for the second straight year.

“I just told the kids I had a great time and I’m so proud of them,” San Francisco manager Tony Cucalon said. “And look at them running around now. What a great group.”

San Francisco American had come from the losers’ bracket and defeated Petaluma Valley 3-2 Monday to force a final game and the two locked up in another tight battle Tuesday. Both teams carried shutouts into extra innings, with Petaluma Valley’s Sean Torres permitting just three hits over six innings and Connor Cucalon and Collin Monsour combining to allow just three for San Francisco American.

Petaluma Valley finally broke through for four runs on seven hits in the top of the seventh, but San Francisco American nearly came all the way back with a spirited rally in the bottom half of the inning. John Schember led off with a seeing-eye single and there were runners on first and second after Gaven Fabian reached on an error. After a fielder’s choice, Frank Kaniewski crushed a three-run home run to right-center and had his team believing.

“I was so pumped when I hit it — I knew it was gone,” Kaniewski said. “After that, I got really loud in the dugout and it seemed like we had it.”

But Petaluma Valley reliever Ian Friend settled down, getting a ground out and strikeout for the win.

San Francisco American has featured the same core group for the past three summers, long enough for the players to form tight bonds. But Kaniewski said they will remember more than just the wins.

“I’ll remember the hotels we stayed at the last two summers,” he said. “We would always jump in the pool and have cannonball contests.”

And after the celebration in the outfield, the families were off to one last dinner as a team.

“I did this to be close to my son and that was really great,” Tony Cucalon said. “And getting to know 14 families and get close to everyone was something that was really special.”

melliser@examiner.com

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