IRVINE — Before the bottom of the sixth inning, Newport Beach American Manager Shawn Miller walked over toward the backstop. He asked the scorekeeper for the opposing reliever's pitch count and then praised the pitcher.
Rancho Niguel's Ryan Brady wasn't throwing like a 10-year-old or 11-year-old kid at Hicks Canyon Park Tuesday.
The right-hander stood in the way of Newport Beach American keeping its season alive in the Little League District 55 All-Star Tournament. Through four innings, Brady faced the minimum number of batters.
Newport Beach American put up a fight in its final at-bat. Clean-up hitter Garrett Schwab drew a leadoff walk. With two outs, Ryan Burgoyne hit a double down the left-field line, putting the winning run at the plate.
Dillon Davis stepped into the batter's box and began hearing chants of "Double D!" The little guy hit a hard grounder to shortstop and raced to first, almost beating out the throw. Rancho Niguel held on and won, 5-3, eliminating Newport Beach American from the tournament.
Brady helped Rancho Niguel continue its season, hoping to reach the finale out of the elimination bracket. Newport Beach American made a valiant effort before bowing out of the tournament with a 2-2 record.
"I think he threw some of the best stuff I've seen in 11-year-old All-Stars now in two years," Miller said of Brady. "The boys put quite a few good swings on. We had runners on base. We broke through and got the tying run at second.
"The nice part was we held them scoreless the last [two] innings with impeccable [defense]."
Miller now needed the offense to rally Newport Beach American for the second time in the game.
Newport Beach American came from behind in the second inning. Down, 2-1, Burgoyne and Davis led off with back-to-back singles. Burgoyne came around to score, tying the game after an error in left field.
After Cole Funsten walked, Rancho Niguel pulled its starter, Sasha Tamaddon, in favor of Brady. With runners on the corners, Brady immediately went to work, mowing down the first batter he faced.
The next batter, Harrison Miller, made contact for Newport Beach American, good enough for the runner from third to score on a groundout. Brady got Rancho Niguel out of the jam only trailing Newport Beach American, 3-2.
Burgoyne started on the mound for Newport Beach American. The left-hander settled down after the first. He lasted three innings, giving up two runs on three hits while striking out four.
Burgoyne, who won two games during the tournament, left with the lead. Rancho Niguel jumped on Burgoyne's replacement in the fourth.
A three-run rally was started by Luke Gitter, who made his first plate appearance for Rancho Niguel after being out six weeks with a broken left arm.
On the first offering, Gitter was hit in the helmet. He walked to first. A couple of pitches later, he sprinted to third after Riley Golden's laser shot went over the left fielder's head for a double.
Eventually Gitter made it home on a grounder to shortstop. This was the start of three straight runs for Rancho Niguel as it took a two-run lead.
The lead looked safe with Brady dealing. From the second to the fifth inning, Brady allowed only two infield hits and he struck out six. Brady used a fastball and curveball to fool hitters.
"This guy was the real deal," Miller said of Brady, who threw 78 pitches, seven from the maximum allowed. "They were probably trying to save him for either [tonight's game against Northwood at 6:30] or Friday. I think they may have lost him for both."