HUNTINGTON BEACH – The Costa Mesa American Little League Minor B division Angels don't need to rely on one pitching ace.
Manager Don Welsher has three pitchers he's plenty comfortable using. Jimi Welsher, James Doody and Cameron Chapman all ate up plenty of innings this year.
On Wednesday evening at Marina Park, they showed their stuff to the Costa Mesa National Little League Astros. The three pitchers combined to strike out 14 as the Angels won, 4-3, to advance to the semifinals at the District 62 Tournament of Champions.
“At this level, to only give up three runs is pretty impressive,” Don Welsher said. “I thought [the Astros] played a great game. They made some nice plays defnesively and they hit the ball well too, but we fielded it well. I'd say pitching and defense won it for us today.”
The Angels, the lone team from either Costa Mesa league still alive at any level of the tournament, play in a Minor B semifinal today at 5:30 p.m. against Robinwood. Don Welsher said he plans to start Chapman, who came in Wednesday as the closer.
The district championship game is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, at the Huntington Valley fields.
The Astros struck twice in the top of the first, as Campbell Norris and Jake Alai each singled and scored. But Angels starter Jimi Welsher settled down and the Angels offense took over, scoring four runs in the bottom of the second.
Jacob and Matthew Carbajal led off the inning with back to back doubles, followed by an infield single from Eli Garcia. After Parker Balt had an RBI groundout on a close play at first, David Gonzalez singled to right.
Doody then hit a bloop single to center, scoring two more and helping the Angels take a 4-2 lead.
“We do [have a strong lineup],” Chapman said. “We came in here as the first seed [from league], so we had a lot of confidence. It feels good to be the only one from our league moving on. It feels good to represent our league. We're hoping to win the whole thing, but we're going to be happy with what we get because we got this far.”
Doody came in to pitch in the fourth and allowed no hits in 2 1/3 innings of relief. He struck out six and Chapman, who came in with one out in the sixth, struck out the final two Astros.
Norris reached on an error in the third and eventually stole home for the Astros, who also received hits from Christian Nunez and Rachel Nishitani. Eric Connor played a strong defensive game at shortstop.
“I thought we had him [Norris] out at the plate,” Don Welsher said. “Close play. I'm just happy our pitchers could stay focused after a little adversity and get the outs that we needed, instead of falling apart.”
Nishitani pitched the whole game for the Astros, striking out four. Aside from the Angels' big inning in the second, she allowed just three hits.
“She's been our go-to pitcher all year,” Astros Manager Will Norris said. “I call her our ‘Steady Eddie,' because she throws so many strikes.”
The Angels also benefited from the defensive play of the game, a backhand catch by Kelly Austin in center field.
Miguel “Benny” Rodriguez, who draws his nickname from the character in the movie “The Sandlot,” also had a double, and Jimi Welsher and Austin added singles.
In the movie, “Benny the Jet” wore a Dodgers cap, but the Angels hope to keep going strong today.
“We set a goal of wanting to get here [to TOC], win one game and make a good showing,” Don Welsher said. “Now that we've won two and look we're in good shape to play anybody, I'm just so proud of the boys. I'm so impressed with how they've handled themselves out here.”