An early deficit is what stared the Laguna Beach Little League Major All-Star team head-on Sunday against Saddleback.
Working its way out of a 4-0 hole in District 55 play, Laguna chipped away at that deficit but ultimately dropped a 5-3 decision at Chapparosa Park in Laguna Niguel. The loss put Laguna in an elimination game Thursday against Lake Forest American. The score was not available at press time.
“I was very pleased with our team,” Laguna Beach Manager Taylor Pillsbury said. “A couple of defensive mistakes put us in a hole early, but we showed guts and battled back and never gave up. That was great to see.
“We battled a very strong Saddleback team. They had a power-hitting team and made only one error on defense.”
Saddleback scored four runs in the first 1 1/2 innings. In the bottom of the second, Laguna posted its first run when catcher Blake Hester began what would be a three for three day at the plate with a single. Harrison Williams, pinch running for Hester, advanced to second base on a fielder’s choice by Cam Hauer, stole third and came home on a passed ball.
Laguna pitcher Robbie McInerny found his groove in the game’s middle innings and retired the side in both the third and fourth innings. Saddleback scored its final run in the top of the fifth and was threatening for more, but two key defensive gems allowed Laguna to get out of the inning.
First, Kyle Jaffe came up with a diving catch down the left field line. Then, Maxx McCarter picked up a ball that traveled up the gap and careened off the outfield fence. He threw to relay cutoff man Jack Pillsbury at shortstop, and Pillsbury in turn threw to Hester at the plate. Hester stood his ground with a successful block and applied the tag for the third out.
“Those two plays really gave us momentum heading into the sixth inning,” Taylor Pillsbury said. “Both were outstanding plays.”
In the top of the six, Jack Pillsbury, in relief of McInerny "” who allowed just five hits and a walk with three strikeouts "” sent Saddleback down in order.
It appeared the score, though, might end up 5-1 after consecutive ground outs opened up the bottom of the sixth for Laguna. But Hester came through again, his third single of the game giving the locals some life, and then Hauer gave Saddleback fits when he smacked a two-run home run that easily cleared the 220-foot mark in dead centerfield to make it 5-3.
A third infield ground-out of the inning, however, ended Laguna’s comeback hopes.
Both teams had five hits. In addition to Hester’s trio and Hauer’s homer, McInerny singled in the fourth.
Little League All-Stars
Manager: Taylor Pillsbury; Coaches: Dan McInerny, Bill Burk; The Roster: Cameron Hauer Blake Hester, Kyle Jaffe, Cole Kesler, Kaito Lee, Brandon Lewis, Maxx McCarter, Robbie McInerny, Jack Pillsbury, Kurt Rebone, Christian Reickoff, Evan Rubel, Johnny Stanton, Larry Stewart, Harrison Williams