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Costa Mesa American evens Mayor’s Cup series to force deciding game

With an arsenal of all-star arms, combined with pitch-count restrictions designed to protect from overuse, Little League Baseball coaching staffs’ bullpen decisions can sometimes alternate between playing the percentages and playing a hunch.

Both brain trusts appeared to nail their pitching assignments in the second game of the best-of-three Mayor’s Cup series between Majors Division All-Star teams from Costa Mesa American Little League and Costa Mesa National Little League on Monday at TeWinkle Middle School.

But fielding miscues, combined with some clutch hitting, had more to do with Costa Mesa American’s 5-4 win to force a deciding third game on Wednesday at Costa Mesa High.

Costa Mesa American left-hander Jacob Allen sparkled brightest among six combined pitchers who combined to surrender just two earned runs.

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Allen, who pitched a scoreless relief inning in Game 1 (won by Costa Mesa National 6-1 on Saturday), started and earned the victory on Monday. He struck out 11 in four innings, without issuing a walk. He allowed four hits and three runs, but all three runs were unearned.

Garrett Emerson struck out the only batter he faced to leave two runners in scoring position and earn the save for the visitors, who used aggressive base running to capitalize on four Costa Mesa National errors.

Of the winners’ five runs, only one was produced by an RBI hit, an opposite-field single by Aiden Ogo that tied the score at 3-3 in the fifth inning.

After Matthew Riley tripled with one out in the first inning, Costa Mesa American teammate Caiden Curran drove him in with a groundout to the second baseman.

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Allen made that lead standup until a leadoff error and two-out passed ball helped the hosts seize a 3-1 lead in the fourth.

A one-out double by Kaiden Kahkosko erased the 1-0 deficit and, after a strikeout, Cullen Powers tripled into the right-field corner to put Costa Mesa National ahead. Powers then scored on a passed ball for the third unearned run of the frame.

Costa Mesa American answered with three in the fifth to make a winner out of Allen, though Costa Mesa National made things interesting in the sixth.

With Costa Mesa National down to its last out in the sixth, Dimitri Susidko drilled a line single to left and John Uchytil walked. Kahkosko then bounded a single through the right side to plate Susidko and put runners on first and second.

Costa Mesa American manager Michael Heil walked to the mound to make a pitching change, initially appearing to summon second baseman Matthew Anderson. But before Anderson could take the hill, assistant coaches in the dugout called for Heil to instead give the ball to Emerson, who was in center field at the time.

“He hits his spots real well,” Heil later said of the reasoning behind presenting the save opportunity to Emerson. “The last thing we wanted to do was leave the ball up against [Costa Mesa National’s cleanup hitter], because he can crush it.”

In addition to Riley and Ogo, Allen, Anderson and Thomas Reyes had hits for Costa Mesa American, which can claim its third straight Mayor’s Cup title with a win on Wednesday.

Kahkosko, who homered in the opener, was two for two with two RBIs and was hit by a pitch on Monday. He also struck out three and did not allow an earned run in 1 2/3 innings of relief.

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Susidko scored twice, while J.J. Kibin singled and walked and is now three for four in the crosstown series.

Powers is also three for four in two games, while Susidko and Kahkosko are both three for five in the series.

James De La O also contributed to Costa Mesa National’s six-hit attack, while Ta’iTa’i Grey-Uiagalelei struck out five and did not allow an earned run in 2 1/3 relief innings.

Wednesday’s game is at 5 p.m.

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5


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