Peyton Thomas is renowned within Costa Mesa National Little League for her power, and she showed it off at the best time possible in Thursday’s second game in the best-of-three Mayor’s Cup clash with Costa Mesa American Little League.
Thomas, the only girl who plays in CMNLL’s Major Division, sent a hanging fastball over the left-field wall to complete a 2-1, bottom-of-the-sixth-inning comeback victory at TeWinkle Middle School and give the National All-Stars their second successive title and 14th in 23 years in the annual season-closing showdown.
It wrapped up a tight battle decided largely by miscues and defined by two outstanding mound performances, a stirring climax that couldn’t have happened if not for a pair of errors that enabled pitcher Miles Dodge to circle the bases and tie the score three batters before Thomas came to the plate.
All three runs were unearned -- American went ahead in the first thanks to a pair of errors -- but the triumph was thoroughly deserved, even if unanticipated.
“It’s like a movie,” Dodge put it, and he wasn’t wrong.
“That was pretty excited,” National manager Dean Smith said. “I wasn’t expecting that one.”
American, 10-4 losers in Tuesday’s opener on its field at Costa Mesa High School, went ahead at the start as Tristan Ramos reached on a two-out error and came home when Isaiah Vasquez’s single got past left fielder Phoenix Scott.
The visitors got just one more hit -- Will Clark’s two-out single to left in the fifth -- and were robbed of a run when center fielder Xavier Shoda, his back against the fence, snagged Ramos’ would-be homer. Ramos tipped his cap to Shoda.
American ace Brennan Borg kept National scoreless going into the sixth, getting out of jams with runners at third in the third and fifth innings. He had Dodge out to start the bottom of the sixth, but Clark, at third base, dropped a popout next to the mound, and catcher Isaiah Mamian’s throw to second base went into the outfield, enabling Dodge -- who to start his at-bat had tipped his cap to Borg, whom he called “a great pitcher” who threw a “heckuva game” -- to score.
Borg, who gave up four hits and struck out five, quickly got two outs, and up came Thomas.
“Everybody knows on our side she’s the one we want up to bat right there, for sure ...,” Smith said. “She’s clutch. Minor B, she hits them out. Minor A, she hits them out. In All-Stars two years ago, she hit a 320-foot bomb.”
The seventh-grader-to-be, who turns 13 in October, took a ball, fouled off the second pitch, and then heard catcher Sawyer Atkinson in the dugout.
“[He] said, ‘It’s going over,’ so I guess he’s psychic,” Thomas said. “So I hit it, and I didn’t know it was over at first, but then I heard the crowd, and I was really happy. It’s a great way to end my last season of Little League.”
It was the final competitive baseball game for Thomas, to Smith’s surprise. He said she “gets real mad at me every time I try to get her on a softball field; she’s a baseball player,” but her parents convinced her during this season that she had a better future in softball.
Told of her plans, Smith laughed, then said: “Estancia [High School] is going to win some softball championships.”
Thomas was particularly happy with the sweep, the ninth time National has won the series, 2-0.
“It was nerve-wracking [at the end], because it was going to be our last game if we won,” she said. “And if we lost, we would have played again [on Saturday morning], but I’m really glad that we won, so we can have a free weekend.”
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SCOTT FRENCH is a contributor to Times Community News.