Coming into the District 62 Tournament of Champions Minor A Division final, Ocean View Little League Cardinals starter Maxx Hopkins knew his opponent well. He was friends with many of his opponents on the Ocean View Little League Red Sox, and some will be his teammates on the Ocean View All-Star team.
That may have made things easier, but it didn’t help with his butterflies before the game.
“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I just thought ‘have fun and throw the ball.’”
That strategy worked as Hopkins tossed five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out eight while walking two on the way to a 1-0 Cardinals victory to win the District 62 Tournament of Champions Minor A title.
Hopkins used his inside knowledge of the Red Sox to his advantage.
“Some of those guys are really good friends on the all-star team, and I know them well,” he said. “I know what pitches I can throw against them to get them good.”
Jameson De Lachica closed it out for the Cardinals throwing an inning in relief, striking out one and walking two.
At the plate, Luke Frohn led the way for the Cardinals going two for three with a double and a single, his team’s only two hits.
The Cardinals faced a dominating pitching performance from Red Sox starter Duncan McLeod, who threw four innings of one-hit baseball while striking out 10 batters on 71 pitches. Benny Breese kept the Red Sox in the game for the final two innings, allowing one hit and one walk, while striking out one.
McLeod and Kingsley Espinoza contributed the Red Sox only two hits, a single and a double respectively.
The game’s only run came in the third inning when Nathan Misterek scored from third on a wild pitch. Cardinals manager Pat Frohn had to rely on aggressive base running in the win.
“I’ve always lived by being aggressive base running,” he said. “If it takes a good throw and a good play to beat us, so be it. I want to put the pressure on the defense.”
The game felt like a pitcher’s duel from the start. Both McLeod and Hopkins earned four of their first six outs via strikeout.
The Cardinals broke through in the third inning with some toughness from Misterek.
With two outs and the bases empty, Misterek took a pitch to the kneecap that sent him to the dirt grimacing. He remained in the game and on the next at-bat, took second and third on a ground ball that slid through the Red Sox second baseman’s legs.
At third, Misterek had to gather himself before the game continued. With Frohn at-bat, he scored on a wild pitch, sliding into home in front of the tag put down by McLeod who was covering.
“It felt nice to stay in the game,” Misterek said. “Although it really, really hurt to run the bases. It was nice winning TOC.”
The Red Sox threatened in the bottom of the sixth, but with runners at first and second and two outs, De Lachica got the final strikeout to seal the Cardinal victory.
The loss was bittersweet for Red Sox manager Brian McLeod.
“It was a good pitching duel,” he said. “It just came down to one call, but that’s baseball. We’re just happy that Ocean View teams got to represent Minor A; that was cool.”
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ANTHONY CIARDELLI is a contributor to Times Community News.