John McLuckey’s kids may be long gone from Costa Mesa American Little League, but McLuckey still stays involved as the league’s treasurer and a well-known District 62 umpire.
Until Saturday, McLuckey coached the only CMALL team to win a Tournament of Champions title. He was responsible for the only flag that flies at the CMALL home field at Costa Mesa High.
Costa Mesa American Major Division Athletics coach Luis Vasquez knows what to expect when meeting McLuckey at home plate before a game.
“Every plate meeting, he tells me to salute the flag,” Vasquez said with a grin. “There was nothing more that we wanted than to put our flag on top of his, and not have to listen to him anymore.”
Another flag is coming for Costa Mesa American. Make that two.
Vasquez’s Athletics used timely hitting to beat the Ocean View Little League Yankees 4-1 in the District 62 TOC Major title game on Saturday morning at the Ocean View fields. A few minutes later, the Costa Mesa American Minor B Red Sox also won the TOC title.
The Costa Mesa American Athletics got a one-hit complete game from Brennan Borg on the mound. Borg walked two, hit a batter and struck out four. Tristan Ramos had a big day at the plate, going three for three with a solo home run and two runs batted in.
Borg took a no-hitter into the sixth against Ocean View, which had not allowed a run in three previous tournament games. The Yankees tried to rally. Lucas Hamicar reached on an error, then Gavin Pluma walked. An out later, Ryan Otani singled to right to load the bases.
Mica Taylor grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring a run, and Ocean View nearly scored another. But Costa Mesa American right fielder Brady Tomko made a diving catch on Maxwell Richter’s well-hit ball to end the game.
“[Tomko] has been known to do that in the final innings,” Vasquez said. “That’s why he’s there, he makes those great diving catches. He’s so fast.”
Costa Mesa American wasted no time becoming the first team in the TOC to score against Ocean View. Ramos singled to center with two outs in the top of the first, sparking a rally. Isaiah Vasquez followed with a full-count walk, and Bennett Molica’s single to center scored Ramos.
“There were two outs and I just wanted to get on base,” Ramos said. “I’m glad we scored. I know we were all really nervous. That first run was really big and just kind of a stress reliever.”
Ocean View’s Jack Junker was hit by a pitch leading off the top of the first, and Matt Haidl followed by scorching a ball to the right side. But Ramos, the first baseman, was there to grab the lineout and he stepped on first to double off Junker. It was one of several nice plays made at first by Ramos.
“That really turned the tide,” Ocean View coach Dean Haidl said. “We had a runner on first with nobody out, and we crush a ball down the line. He made a fantastic play and doubled us off, and that really set the tone for them.”
Ramos doubled the lead in the top of the fourth, crushing the first pitch of the inning for a home run to left field. The Athletics then got two more runs in the sixth. Max Chadwick hit a one-out single to center, and Tomko also singled to center. Ramos then beat out an infield single to shortstop to score a run.
Ramos was then caught in a rundown, but meanwhile Tomko was scoring from third base, giving the Athletics a 4-0 lead.
Borg, who threw a two-hit shutout for the Athletics in the CMALL Major title game, came through again with the TOC title on the line.
“We’ve always lost to Ocean View,” Borg said. “It’s an honor to be able to pitch to such a great team, but I knew I could do it, because I just believed in myself and I had an amazing team behind me.”
Michael Buley, Aiden Comte and Isaiah Mamian also had hits for Costa Mesa American, which also got contributions from Bradley Hohman, Jacob Rowlands and Caden Oliver.
Going forward, there will be another Major Division flag to salute at the Costa Mesa American fields.
“Huntington Valley and Ocean View, they set the standard [in District 62],” Luis Vasquez said. “I think they see us on the schedule and they think, ‘Easy game.’ I hope they don’t think that anymore. We’ve been working hard to catch up. That’s been our goal, to develop our league and play to their level.”
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