Angels hit the jackpot – a Little League championship
Just when it looked as if the drama had been removed from the South Tahoe National Little League majors championship on Saturday, the Giants resiliently battled back for an exciting finish at Fred Rightmier Field.
The Angels scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to build an eight-run cushion, but the Giants were able to send the tying run to the plate before succumbing to the regular-season champs, 11-7.
Strong hitting and pitching spurred the Angels’ title drive during the course of the season, and both were on display on Saturday. The Angels banged out 13 hits, and Kirby David pitched five stellar innings as the Angels never trailed.
“It’s our first championship,” said Angels’ veteran player Jaret Young. “It means a lot because we’ve lost every season so far.”
The Angels finished on a 17-game winning streak and ended with an 18-1 overall record.
“The kids battled,” said Angels’ skipper Kirk David. “We had a fun year, and the kids worked hard.”
After David struck out the side in the first inning, Nick Cefalu knocked in David with a single between short and second base for the first run.
The Giants retrieved the run in the second as Brandon Root hit a two-out base hit down the left-field line to plate Jordyn Switzer.
David escaped the bases loaded jam when Young made an unassisted out at first base.
The Angels took the lead for good in their half of the second as Paul Hoefer delivered a two-out, two-run single to score John Moffat and Moises Cuevas. Mason Cain followed with a RBI single, scoring Hoefer to make the score 4-1.
“Mostly it was the offense and good hitting and being in front,” said Hoefer of his team’s key to winning.
Keelin McBride’s base hit chased home Mike Ritchey in the third, allowing the Giant to close within 4-2. But the Angels again had an answer in their half of third as Moffat’s single scored Young, who had opened the inning with a double to left.
The Giants pulled within 5-3 in the fifth when McBride picked up another RBI – a single to left that scored Ritchey.
Sensing a Giant rally, the Angels called on one of their strengths – their hitting – to add to their lead in the fifth. The Angels strung together six hits and took advantage of some passed balls to push across six runs. A two-run triple by Brian Catchings, David’s double and base hits by Hoefer, Cain, Cefalu and Moffat enabled the Angels to hit through their lineup.
Trailing 11-3 with three outs remaining in their season, the Giants showed their character by nearly pulling off an improbable comeback. The first six Giants reached base – two on bases on balls – to force the Angels into a couple of mound conferences. Jared Stowell knocked in a run and McBride delivered a two-run double into left-center field as the Giants made the score 11-7.
“I was getting nervous, but they were actually getting some good hits and coming back, but they just didn’t get enough,” Hoefer said. “They didn’t do so good in the regular season, but they definitely came through in the playoffs.”
Following an infield popup, Hirshal Sukha walked to reload the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate. Cain, who relieved David in the fifth, prevented the Giants from gaining any more momentum by retiring the final hitter on strikes. The final out touched off a wild Angels’ celebration between the mound and the batter’s box and prevented the teams from coming back on Father’s Day for a rematch.
“I love baseball. I’d rather be no place but here on Sunday, but it’s nice getting it today,” coach David said.
The Giants, a sixth seed entering the playoffs, won three straight games in the losers’ bracket to make the championship for the third straight year.
“No one thought we’d come back. We battled very hard,” Switzer said. “We just put all of our practice from all of the games into all these games when we came back.”
Moffat topped the Angels by going 3 for 3 with two runs scored, while Cain, Moffat, Young, Cefalu and Catchings contributed two hits. McBride led the Giants by going 3 for 4 with four RBI.
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