Rust hurts Newport Beach

NEWPORT BEACH — It was the first game in a week, and it showed Thursday night for the Newport Beach American Little League 10- and 11-year-old All-Stars.

Newport Beach American Manager Jeff Gilbert said he saw a lot of cobwebs on the field. Defensively his team was not at its sharpest.

Rancho Niguel made the hosts pay, eliminating Newport Beach American from the District 55 All-Star tournament, 14-7, at Lincoln Elementary.

The football score didn't benefit Newport Beach American. Football players are usually the ones who get a week between games.

"We had a lot of momentum and then we had [seven days off]," said Gilbert, whose team went 3-1 in its first four games of the double-elimination tournament. "It's just the way the bracket worked out. We had four games all stacked up, and then a big long layoff."

The time off hurt Newport Beach American, which never led the game against Rancho Niguel. It was going to be tough for Newport Beach American to win after Gilbert said he counted 12 errors on his team.

Seven of Rancho Niguel's 14 runs were unearned.

"In our first four games we had a total of three errors," Gilbert said. "I think we had 12 tonight. It was just uncharacteristic of these boys. You never know what can happen when they come out; they're 11 years old."

They tried to battle back after an early 3-0 deficit, not the fault of Newport Beach American starting pitcher Alex Rosen as just one of those runs was earned. Newport Beach American tied the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the third. Max Foxcroft, Matt Thompson and Rosen all singled, and Spencer Hook then delivered a two-RBI single to center.

After Connor Norayan's RBI groundout to second base, the score was tied. But Rancho Niguel stormed back for five unearned runs in the top of the fourth inning, all coming with two outs.

Rancho Niguel pushed its lead as big as 14-5 with three more runs in the sixth inning.

Gilbert's pitching options were limited as he said his son, Nick, missed the game with strep throat. He said Thompson, one of the team's better athletes who played shortstop and catcher, was also unable to pitch due to a dislocated toe.

Foxcroft was three for three for Newport Beach American, and Thompson and Hook were each three for four.

Hook had three runs batted in.

Garin Friedman was two for three for the hosts. Ethan Sparks, Ryan Machoskie, Brandel Turner and Paul Vrebalovich also contributed.

Rancho Niguel was led by Ethan Reed and Hayden Burnight (both three for four with two doubles).

The first two hitters in Rancho Niguel's lineup did their job, as they combined to score nine runs.

Rancho Niguel moved on to play another elimination game Saturday.

Gilbert said there was little reason for his team to hang its collective head.

Even in Newport Beach American's other loss, the team pushed Lake Forest to the limit before falling in nine innings.

"I had 11 kids that all loved baseball," Gilbert said. "It was just a well-balanced team and a lot of fun. Great kids, and the sad thing is that it's over. But they were just fantastic. They represented Newport Beach well."

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