FOUNTAIN VALLEY — You only need nine kids to field a Little League team, but playing with no substitutes at all can prove to be a difficult proposition.
The members of the Costa Mesa National Little League 10- and 11-year-old All-Stars didn't mind it Saturday. All it meant was more at-bats for each of the players, and Costa Mesa National knew what to do with those opportunities.
Everybody hit, helping Costa Mesa National earn a 10-3 victory over Robinwood at Mile Square Park in the opening round of the District 62 All-Star Tournament.
Each of Costa Mesa National's nine players reached base at least once. Eight of the nine players had at least one run batted in.
It was satisfying for Costa Mesa National Manager Bee Jay Mazur, who said his team has done extensive hitting drills leading up to the tournament. That included a short hitting session Saturday morning before the first-round game.
"We didn't know what we had coming out here in a few positions, and everybody that we weren't sure about showed up and played the game they needed to play," Mazur said. "They're very dialed-in kids right now."
Costa Mesa National is carrying a 10-player roster, but Mazur said Carson Letterman is on a cruise right now. He'll be back Monday, when Costa Mesa National plays its next winners'-bracket game against host Fountain Valley at 5 p.m.
Costa Mesa starting pitcher Brian Rodriguez helped his team stay in the winner's bracket. "B-Rod" scattered three hits in four shutout innings. He struck out 10 Robinwood batters and walked just one, mixing in an effective curveball to keep the designated home team off-balance.
"He's one of the better pitchers in the whole league," Mazur said. "He plays a lot of travel ball, so he's used to pitching in pressure games."
Costa Mesa National scored twice in the first inning. Nic Mazur's double down the third-base line scored Trevor Brown, then Nic Mazur came home on catcher Jack Sheets' single to center.
Tyler Bond sparked a two-out rally with his walk in the fourth inning. After Bradley Siegel reached base, both were batted in on Liam Wallington's clutch single to center field and Costa Mesa National had a 4-0 lead.
Rodriguez got into trouble for the only time in the bottom of the inning, as Robinwood loaded the bases with two outs. Rodriguez's grandmother, Elizabeth, stood behind the backstop and shouted encouragement to Brian.
"Just focus, Brian," she said. "Play the game."
Brian Rodriguez did. On his 65th and final pitch, he went to a beautiful curveball to earn a strikeout and end the threat.
Costa Mesa National soon broke it wide open, taking a 10-0 lead in the sixth inning. Four of the five runs scored came with two outs.
Robinwood tried to rally, getting on the board on Blake Partis' three-run homer in the bottom of the inning. But Bond, the Costa Mesa National relief pitcher, didn't panic. He got back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
Leadoff hitter Matt Palma was three for four with a double for Costa Mesa National and Colby Arensdorf also had an RBI and a run scored. Brown and Sheets both had two hits.
Brown, the first baseman, said he thinks Costa Mesa National can go far in the District 62 tournament.
"We have a really good chance," he said. "If we play like this every game, I think we have a good chance … We can hit off of any pitcher."
After all, playing with just nine players was not going to stop the hitting onslaught. If anything, it provided less things for the coaching staff to think about. Costa Mesa National didn't have to worry about the Little League rule that everyone must play.
"We don't have to worry about the subs," Bee Jay Mazur said. "We just can't risk injury. We told the kids, 'There's no such thing as pain today. You can't get hurt.' "
Instead, his team brought the pain.