Big first inning propels RDM to crown

Daily Pilot

CORONA DEL MAR — The tempo was set quickly, in the bottom of the first inning.

Garin Friedman led off with a single to right. Braxton Andry followed with an infield single and Friedman scored on Shawn Nielsen's single to right.

Connor Johnston had an infield single and Dylan Davies and Taylor Kipling added an RBI double each.

RDM put up five runs in the first inning of Saturday's Newport Beach Little League AAA Division championship game at Lincoln Elementary. That was all the home team could do; there's a five-run limit per inning rule.

But pitchers Johnston and Alex Rosen did the rest, combining for six strong innings as RDM topped Ding King, 8-2, to win the championship.

"Everybody hit," RDM Manager Bruce Rosen said. "They were really aggressive at the plate. And I think most importantly, we came in really positive because Connor did his job in the top of the inning, getting them out. It really set the tone for the game."

Johnston was a reliable pitcher in the playoffs for American League champion RDM (13-8-1) after coming back from a thumb injury. Rosen said he hoped Johnston could pitch two innings Saturday.

Instead, he pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out three.

"There was a lot of pressure, but the parents and the crowd always cheered me on," Johnston said. "My teammates cheered me on, too, so I felt good."

National League champion Ding King (13-5-2) cut the lead in the fourth. Pitcher Grayson Wueste led off with a single, and he was batted home on a triple by J.P. Ziegler.

Ziegler scored on a passed ball and the RDM lead was trimmed to 5-2.

But the home team scored three more times in the bottom of the inning as Rosen, Johnston and Davies led off with three straight singles. All three players would come around to score.

Davies said it was important for RDM not to get cocky.

"Don't let it get to your head, or we would probably lose," Davies said.

He gave an example. The Place was the regular-season champion in the American League, and Davies said he goes to school with many of those players.

The Place also beat RDM via mercy rule earlier in the playoffs, but RDM came back to eliminate The Place in the American League championship game.

"They kept telling me they were going to win, so I let them get cocky, but then we came out and beat them," Davies said.

Nielsen, a 9-year-old who was called up to RDM midway through the season, had perhaps the best play in the field.

His sliding catch robbed Ding King's Wueste in the fifth inning.

Wueste settled down after the first inning on the mound, pitching 3 2/3 innings before giving way to Kade Johnson.

Ding King Manager Rick Dill said his top two pitchers, Dylan Shockey and Kyle Hatch, had both pitched in the previous game and weren't eligible for Saturday's contest. Wueste and Johnson gave Ding King a chance, but the bats went quiet.

"We were a great hitting team all season, usually averaging about 10 runs a game," Dill said. "When you can only score two runs, it's kind of hard to win."

Friedman, Johnston and Davies were all two for two for RDM. Ben Marks also had a single while Chris Owens, Jake Elisius, Eric Fries, Donte Garcia and Jack Klingler also contributed.

After the game, Ding King's Christian Strasmann was awarded the AAA Division Sportsman of the Year Award. Strasmann also had a highlight play at third base in the fifth inning, firing a long throw to record an out.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World