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Peru’s Ben Bernabei slides safely into home plate Saturday during Peru’s 5-2 loss to Streator in the District 20 title series. Peru bounced back with an 11-10 victory Sunday to claim the District 20 title. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Bernabei cranked a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth inning Sunday that lifted the Peru All-Star team to a thrilling 11-10 victory over Streator to win the District 20 Little League Baseball title.
The home run came a day after Bernabei surrendered a game-winning three-run home run with two outs in the top of the sixth that propelled Streator to a 5-2 victory Saturday to force Sunday’s winner-take-all game.
“Ben has been our home run hitter all season, and when it came down to it Ben showed what we could do,” Peru manager Bob Mitchell said. “When I faced Ben in the (Peru) city championship, he got walked every at-bat because I knew what Ben could do. I wouldn’t let him touch the ball when we played them. Ben is just a great kid and deserves the grand slam he got.”
Bernabei’s grand slam completed a comeback for Peru, which trailed 8-1 after 2 1/2 innings.
However, Peru added a run in the third, five in the fourth and trailed 10-7 with two outs in the fifth when things fell its way.
With a runner on base and two outs, an infield single and a hit batsman loaded the bases for Peru’s cleanup hitter.
Streator attempted to intentionally walk Bernabei and purposely threw the first two pitches high.
However, on the third pitch, Bernabei swung at a high pitch on the outside corner and blasted a no-doubt grand slam over the right-centerfield fence to give Peru an 11-10 lead.
Peru then retired Streator 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth to seal the title-clinching victory.
“We were trying (to pitch around him), but we just didn’t hit our spots,” Streator manager Ryan Pierce said. “(Our pitcher) has been a great pitcher for us the last several years and he’s a great kid. It was who we wanted on the mound, but we just couldn’t get it done. We were trying to (intentionally walk Bernabei), but we just didn’t hit our spots.”
Bernabei finished Sunday’s game 4-for-4 with a grand slam, a solo home run, two singles, seven RBIs and two runs scored, while No. 2 hitter Nathan Hachenberger was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs.
After Hachenberger struggled on the mound Sunday, Jake Wagner came on in relief and shut down Streator.
Wagner earned the victory on the rubber as he allowed two runs — one earned — on one hit and struck out one in 3 1/3 innings pitched.
On Saturday, Streator was the one pulling out the thrilling victory.
After Streator took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning, Peru rallied as Hachenberger hit a solo home run in the fourth and a game-tying RBI single in the fifth.
However, in the top of the sixth, Streator’s Vern McKinley blasted a go-ahead three-run home run that sent Streator to the victory.
Sunday’s victory by Peru erased all of Saturday’s pain and sent it to the three-team Section 5 Tournament, which starts Wednesday in Rochelle.
Peru will play the winner of District 5 at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The title game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday and the if-necessary game is 2 p.m. Sunday.
“Streator has been our nemesis for the last three years and we could never get past Streator,” Mitchell said. “We’ve played them in the championship the last three years, so this is something we’ve wanted to do for three years and we finally did it. I hope we can make it past the next level, and Streator was third in the state last year, so we hope that we can produce and do as good as Streator.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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