Bay area athletes clean up at the Maccabi Games

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The Pan Am Maccabi baseball team might respect its elders but that doesn’t mean it lets them win.

The squad ripped off four consecutive wins and a gold medal in the Santiago, Chile, tournament from late December through Jan. 4.

With baseball teams from nearby Latin American nations unable to attend — the tournament was originally scheduled for over the summer in Venezuela but was delayed and moved because of political unrest — the American 17- to 19-year-olds ripped through three squads of Chilean amateurs, one of them a 30-and-over outfit.

“The field we played at was, I think, the only 90-foot regulation baseball diamond surrounded by the city of Santiago,” said assistant coach Ron Fried of Palo Alto.

The baseball team’s excellence was the norm for American athletes, who brought home 212 medals, 109 of them gold. The host Chileans garnered 167 medals and Mexico came third with 127.

Bolstered by a one-hit pitching performance from Fremont’s Josh Guterman — a left-hander who stands only 5-foot-6 but nevertheless consistently hit the 80s on the radar gun — the U.S. rolled in its opening game with a 17-1 victory over a team called the Latinos.

The Americans fell behind, 11-3, in the sixth inning of a seven-inning game versus a stronger squad stocked with Cuban expatriates, but rallied late for a 15-12 win. Joey Faber of Sunnyvale picked up the win in relief.

After a 23-3 pasting of a 30-and-over team called the Archangels, Guterman again pitched the United States to victory in a gold-medal rematch with the Latinos. The Americans prevailed, 14-4.

“It was just, go out there and pitch. It was just like the first game. It was the same team, too, so the only difference was how many days of rest I had,” said Guterman, discussing his mindset before winning the gold-medal game on two days rest.

Moving from the diamond to the pool, Orinda’s Elyse Corwin was perhaps the tournament’s biggest success story, winning six golds and two silvers.

The University of Maryland senior came first in the 50-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter freestyle as well as in two relays.

“It was very cool to be wearing seven or eight medals around my neck. I looked down and thought, ‘How did I win all these medals?'” said Corwin, who sent a gold medal to each of her three grandmothers.

Fellow pool shark Nick Campbell of Walnut Creek also took home two golds, two silvers and a bronze. All told, U.S. swimmers won more than 80 medals.

Facing difficult Latin American competition, the girls’ youth soccer squad — featuring Allegra Gigante Luft of Petaluma — netted a gold, while the boys’ team brought home a bronze. And the women’s volleyball team, including Piedmont’s Emily Harris, took silver.

In tennis, Sandra Rubin of Santa Rosa, who told j. before the tournament that she expected to face the stiffest competition of her life, fared well enough to earn a bronze medal.

And, finally, the men’s fast-pitch softball team finished out of the medal chase, but 25-year-old Dan Winninck of Walnut Creek lived one of sports’ sweetest dreams when he popped a walk-off home run in a 6-5 victory over Canada.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.