Dirtbags halted by Cardinal

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Things can change in the blink of an eye in baseball, and the Costa Mesa National Little League Majors Division Dirtbags experienced it this week at the District 62 Tournament of Champions.

On Monday night it was a walk-off hit by Colby Arensdorf, scoring Carson Letterman to give the Dirtbags a thrilling eight-inning victory over the Seaview Phillies, 2-1.

Two nights later Costa Mesa National was caught on the other side of the equation. OK, maybe this time it was two blinks of an eye that hurt the Dirtbags.

The Robinwood Cardinal connected on two big home runs in the second inning and hung on to defeat the Dirtbags, 9-5, in a TOC quarterfinal game at Wardlow Park.

Costa Mesa National Manager Randy Wood was still proud of his team, which entered Wednesday night's matchup on a 10-game winning streak.

"We started out real slow and let everybody play some different positions," Wood said. "We were losing some games. But, from the middle of the season on, they got it together. They won their last 10 games of the season, most of it in tournament format."

The Dirtbags, wearing the uniforms of their Long Beach State namesakes, fell behind after Robinwood's two-out rally in the second. First it was Rocco Peppi cranking a three-run home run to left to give the Cardinal the edge. Then, after Braden Wylde tripled to right, Dylan Holt connected on a first-pitch, two-run homer to even deeper in left.

The Dirtbags were suddenly down, 5-0.

"That was a tough inning," Wood said. "The first kid got a fastball, and the second one Michael [Aherne] hung a curve. That kid was all over it, a little guy too. But they could hit the ball; you've got to give them credit."

Costa Mesa National would fall behind 6-0 before rallying in the fourth. Arensdorf started it off with an infield single, and Aherne followed with a full-count RBI double to left, scoring pinch-runner Sage Taylor.

After Connor Walsh drew a walk, Robinwood pitcher Holt induced an infield popout. But the throw to second got away, and Aherne scored to trim the lead. Walsh then scored on a wild pitch, bringing the Dirtbags within 6-3.

Costa Mesa National added another run in the fifth, when Letterman's double to left scored Brad Siegel. But Robinwood intentionally walked Arensdorf, the next batter.

Arensdorf's mother, Heather, voiced her displeasure with the decision. After the game, her son said he was also disappointed.

"I did not like that at all," said Arensdorf, the Dirtbags' catcher. "I hated it. I wanted to try to tie [the score] up."

But it worked out for the Cardinal, as they got a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat. They stretched their lead to 9-4 in the fifth, Kent getting the big hit with a two-RBI double to center.

Robinwood scored all nine of its runs with two outs.

Costa Mesa National couldn't come all the way back, though the Dirtbags didn't get the benefit of two very close calls in the sixth. A baserunner was called just out at second after Trevor Brown's bloop single to center.

One out later, Trevor Pacheco's infield single brought in Brown, narrowing the deficit to 9-5. But then Siegel's rocket shot down the third-base line was called just foul. Robinwood reliever Drey Despot came back to earn a strikeout, ending the game.

The Costa Mesa National and American Little Leagues sent a combined four teams to the District 62 Tournament of Champions. As the only one of the four to advance past the first round, the Dirtbags could still feel proud of their season.

"Our team came together when [Arensdorf] went behind the plate full-time," Wood said. "He was like the glue that held us together. Carson Letterman pitched on Monday. The guy was on fire. He pitched our last three playoff games."

Letterman said it was the first time he had advanced past the first round.

"It was probably our defense, and our ability to hit the ball," Letterman said of the reasons for the Dirtbags' success. "[Arensdorf] blocks every ball, pretty much."

Arensdorf went six for six in the TOC, including two hits Wednesday. Pacheco was two for three against Robinwood.

Justin Wood, Joey Hubbs, Katy Nash and Liam Wallington also contributed for Costa Mesa National. Wallington had one of the standout defensive play of the night, snagging a low line drive at second base.


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