Newport Beach Little League makes history

IRVINE — The Newport Beach Little League Intermediate (50/70) Division All-Stars love to sing.

They have a variety of favorites, including songs by Selena Gomez and Journey, but their go-to song is probably "Dead and Gone" by T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake.

The song title usually describes Newport Beach's title hopes by this point in June, but not this year. With an impressive display of power, Newport Beach made history Tuesday night at Las Lomas Park.

The NBLL Intermediate All-Stars hit seven home runs in routing Lake Forest, 16-2, in five innings, winning the District 55 Tournament for the first time in Newport Beach Little League history in any age division.

"It's just a great group of kids, and they're just having fun," Newport Beach Manager Rick Dill said. "We just let them play, you know? You never see us coaches barking at them. We said from day one, when they step foot on the field during games, it's all their time. They're playing the game, not us, and they just have fun with that. They're singing when they get to the field, and they're not nervous."

The Intermediate (12- and 13-year-old) division, which features bigger field dimensions than normal Little League divisions, was a new one this year in District 55. Winning the district title was something else new to Newport Beach, which had come close in recent years but never prevailed.

Newport Beach will make its first appearance in the Section 10 tournament, which also is double-elimination. Newport Beach begins by playing host to District 62 champion Ocean View on Saturday at Bonita Canyon Sports Park.

The locals did it with the long-ball. They hit 22 of them in the three-game tournament, four each from Spencer Hook, Harry Dill and Tyler Flood. They outscored their opponents by a combined 52-7, which included an 18-3 win over Irvine on Saturday and a 18-2 win over Northwood on Sunday.

Grant Joyce, who said after the game he considered himself more of a line-drive hitter, hit three home runs Tuesday for Newport Beach. Flood, Freddy Bloom, Brandel Turner and Morgan Derifield also homered for Newport.

"It feels great to hang a banner," said Flood, who helped contribute to a flood of runs in the top of the third inning.

Hook led off with a single to center, and he was brought home on a homer to right by Joyce. Harry Dill walked, and was brought home on a no-doubt homer to center by Derifield.

Lake Forest changed pitchers, but Bloom greeted the new pitcher with a first-pitch homer to left, and Newport Beach had an 8-0 lead.

"We've got so much power," Rick Dill said. "It's just crazy."

Joyce was on fire, collecting five runs batted in and hitting one home run to each field, left, right and finally center. The middle home run ball was retrieved and given to his grandparents, Jim and Dottie, sitting in the front row. Nobody really minded when he struck out looking in the fifth.

"You can't hit a homer every time," Jim said.

Grant Joyce also pitched an inning of scoreless relief in the fourth, striking out the side. By then, Newport Beach already had an 8-1 lead. Starting pitcher Bloom, who had hurled three perfect innings in Sunday's victory over Northwood, was again impressive Tuesday.

He again pitched three innings, striking out eight batters and only allowing an unearned run. Joyce pitched an inning, and Flood finished the pitching duties in the fifth.

It was a complete effort for Newport Beach, one worthy of the history-making title.

"It's all about bats," said shortstop Matt Thompson, who was two for four with a double. "Our pitching was just mowing them down, and our bats just came alive."

Harry Dill was two for two with a pair of walks and scored four runs for Newport Beach. Turner also had a pair of hits, including the home run, and two RBIs.

Nick Gilbert, Sachin Gokhale, Jake Gilbert and Grayson Wueste also contributed for the winners, who don't plan to stop here.

The key may be their bats. Or, it may be their voices.

"As long as we keep singing, we're good," Derifield said.

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