Pitching and defense dominated the Majors Division battle between Oysters and VFW at Riddle Field, and it was Oysters that prevailed by a 3-2 score in a seven-inning Laguna Beach Little League game.
In a battle on the mound, VFW’s Cole Kessler struck out seven in four innings of work. For Oysters, Larry Stewart and Morgan Lebby combined to strike out 16.
VFW had threatened to take an early lead by putting runners at second and third base with one out in the top of the second inning, but a hard-hit grounder by Steven Watkins was fielded cleanly at second by Bryan Ludloff who threw to Kyle Jaffe at home to force out the second out. Oysters got out of the inning unscathed, then scored the game’s first run in the bottom-half of the frame.
In the bottom of the second, Drew Romero singled and later scored on a hit to right field by Lebby.
But VFW bounced right back in the top of the third and tied the score when Avery Crowl executed a textbook bunt and later scored. The score stood at 1-1 until the bottom of the fourth where Stewart hitting a solo home run to provide a 2-1 lead.
VFW drew even again, this time answering in the top of the fifth, a lead-off single by Curtis Revels followed by an RBI single to right field by Adam Rodner tying the score at 2-2.
The game went to extra innings after VFW withstood an Oysters scoring threat in the bottom of the sixth. Dade Shields and Ludloff started the inning with consecutive singles but solid relief pitching and defense by Blake Hester resulted in three consecutive grounders to the mound, and Hester threw out three consecutive runners headed for third to get out of the jam.
VFW had the go-ahead run on base when Noel Smith drew a walk in the top-half of the seventh but Ludloff, who took over the mound for Oysters, recorded outs on the next two batters he faced out to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kristian Reickhoff hit an infield grounder and just did beat out the throw to first by VFW’s Robert Clemons to put Oysters in scoring position. Hester struck out the next batter he faced, but Reickhoff’s quickness allowed him to steal both second and third. Joe Redfearn was next at the plate and a squeeze play was on. He squared to bunt and the ensuing pitch was low and got away from the VFW catcher, which allowed Reickhoff to score the winning run.