Jackson Arredondo has a knack for hitting the ball to where the open spot is. Elijah Griffis has an off-speed pitch he readily acknowledges to be “absolutely great.”
Each used his skill to great effect Tuesday night, delivering the biggest blows as Huntington West Little League's Cubs pulled out a 4-3, eight-inning triumph over Costa Mesa National Little League's Dodgers to advance to the Major Division semifinals in the District 62 Tournament of Champions.
Jackson's one-out, opposite-field single to right in the top of the eighth brought home Dominic Neel with the go-ahead run, and Griffis wrapped up a terrific 4 2/3 innings of relief by striking out the side in the bottom of the inning to nail down the victory at Ocean View Little League's fields at Park View Elementary School in Huntington Beach.
Huntington West will play Thursday at 5:30 p.m. against the Seaview Little League Red Sox or Ocean View Little League Yankees, who meet Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Ryo DeGuzman delivered a pair of RBI hits and was sparking at shortstop, Neel scored two runs, and Griffis and starter Rob LaPine combined for a five-hitter while striking out 14 as the Cubs (13-7) pulled out their second one-run decision of the tournament.
“It feels great,” said Huntington Beach coach Robert Arredondo, Jackson's dad. “These kids thrive on close wins. ... They just thrive on it. I don't think we've won any game by more than two runs all year. They like the pressure of those close games.”
Costa Mesa National repeatedly got out of tough situations — the Cubs left 11 runners on base, seven of them in scoring position — and rallied from a two-run deficit to tie the score on Cole Wilder's two-run single in the fourth inning.
“The kids played hard, they just couldn't put runs up there at the end ...,” Dodgers coach Dean Smith said. “Hats off to the other team. They were disciplined batters. They were more disciplined than us.”
Jackson Arredondo started the game with a double to the fence in left and came home when DeGuzman followed with a double to the fence in right. Costa Mesa National (13-9) caught up in the bottom of the inning, when Sawyer Atkinson walked, stole second, went to third on a groundout and scored when on Phoenix Scott singled to right.
The Cubs went ahead when Neel reached on an error to start the third, followed by walks to Dylan Hamilton and Arredondo sandwiching a strikeout by Dodgers starter Jaxon Smith. DeGuzman singled home Neel, and Samuel Arredondo — Jackson's twin — singled home Hamilton, with Jackson Arredondo thrown out at the plate by Noah Nevins.
The Dodgers pulled even when Atkinson doubled to right to lead off the bottom of the fourth and went to third on a passed ball, Adriel Gomez walked and stole second, and Wilder singled up the middle. He was thrown out trying to take second on the throw home.
Griffis took over from LaPine two batters later and faced one batter over the minimum the rest of the way. He struck out seven — same as LaPine — allowed two hits and threw 37 pitches for strikes against just 11 balls. His off-speed pitch was devastating.
“His changeup was filthy,” Smith said. “The kids don't really see an off-speed pitch like that. It's 10 mph off. It's hard to hit. Same arm motion.”
Griffis said he picked up the pitch on his own, by figuring out how the hands go, and then figuring out how the arm motion goes.”
“I just started practicing,” he said. “I put the right momentum and the right spin on the ball, where it's just nasty.”
It held the Dodgers at bay the rest of the way, and Huntington West got three singles in the seventh to go ahead. Neel started with a single, and Hamilton followed by an infield hit, with Neel taking third on shortstop Xavier Shoda's off-target throw. With one out, Arredondo ripped the first pitch to right.
“[I was] just looking to hit the ball,” he said.
His dad says it's what he does.
“He's just a kid who looks to see the field,” Robert Arredondo said, “and where the open spot is.”
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