FRESNO — The trip to Fresno was fruitful indeed for the Gardena Rebels, who harvested a Nikkei Athletic Union championship over Labor Day weekend at Clovs North High School.
Gardena overcame early shakiness from starter Clete Albitz and got a 3-for-4 performance at the plate from Nick Sekiya to outlast Fresno Sansei for the AA State title, 11-6.
Albitz allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits in just 3.1 innings of work on the mound, but helped his own cause by driving in two with a single in Gardena’s five-run first inning.
Designated hitter Dewey Mayo also had two RBI for the Rebels, who pounded out 16 hits in the contest.
From there, Gardena led to the finish, giving Albitz the win.
Sekiya knocked in a run in the first on a fielder’s choice, then plated another with a double in the second.
The Rebel right-fielder rounded out his day with a long RBI double in the eighth, scoring Steve Ramirez all the way from first base.
Fresno starter Jacob Colby was knocked around from the outset, lasting only two innings to suffer the loss. He allowed eight runs on seven hits with four walks.
The success for the Gardena faithful continued in the third-place game, as the Knights edged the Li’l Tokio Beavers, 2-1.
The Knights jumped out to an early lead in the first, on an error, a single by Kevin Ando, an RBI double by Russ Kontos and a groundout by Kevin Park.
Gardena starter Mike Sutherland stymied Li’l Tokio for three innings, allowing no runs and a single hit for the win.
The Beavers clawed back into the game in the seventh, when Randy Akasaka launched a solo home run off reliever Heachun Jung, but that was as close as they would get.
Joe Lin took the loss for the Beavers.
The Knights end the season with an 8-5 record, 2-1 in the State tournament.
— Rafu staff reports/Peter McKellar