Newport makes history ... again

NEWPORT BEACH — The first home run that Morgan Derifield hit Tuesday night at Bonita Canyon Sports Park was impressive, as he had to reach down to club a three-run shot to center field.

The second home run that Derifield hit, a two-run rocket shot down the left-field line? By the time you read this, that ball may have stopped rolling somewhere near Santa Ana.

"First pitch, up and in," Derifield said of his shot that cleared the black fence 300 feet away. "Black fence, I've one-hopped it, but only in practice. I've never hit it that far."

There also was no doubt about the outcome for Derifield and the Newport Beach Little League Intermediate (50/70) Division All-Stars. Their historic run continues.

Newport Beach defeated Central Garden Grove, 18-4, in six innings, to win the Section 10 tournament. It's the first section title in league history for Newport Beach. The Newport squad, which last week also captured the first District 55 title in league history, advances to the Sub-Division 3 South tournament beginning this weekend.

A Newport Beach 11-Year-Old All-Star team in 2003 advanced to the Section 5 tournament, but did not have to qualify by winning a district title.

This year's squad will play the Section 8 champion in its opening game of the double-elimination Sub-Division 3 South tournament at 7 p.m. Sunday, at the Canyon Springs Little League fields in Moreno Valley. But where exactly is Moreno Valley?

"Isn't it by San Francisco?" Derifield said before being told by teammate Matt Thompson that no, that's the Little League Intermediate Division World Series in Livermore. Newport Beach is now just three tournaments away from that biggest stage.

Derifield nodded.

"We have the confidence to go there," he said.

Manager Rick Dill's team certainly appears to have the skill to continue its run. Newport Beach improved to 6-0 in postseason play, and all but one of the games has ended early due to the mercy rule. The locals are averaging more than 19 runs per game.

"Now our goal is set on the World Series," Dill said. "We want to go all the way."

Derifield leads the team with seven postseason home runs; Grant Joyce, who had a three-run homer Tuesday as well, is next with six long balls. But Tuesday's game looked like a pitcher's duel, at least early. Central Garden Grove starter Dylan Hyde allowed just one run fin the first three innings. The run came in the top of the first, as Harry Dill smacked a two-out double. He was singled home by Derifield, who finished four for five with the two home runs and six runs batted in.

But Newport Beach, as it has done throughout its run, erupted with a big inning. The hosts scored nine times in the top of the fourth, all of them unearned and coming with two outs. Central Garden Grove had a chance to get out of the inning, but the second baseman could not handle a ground ball and the subsequent throw to first got away. Newport's Thompson and Grayson Wueste both scored on the play.

Then the flood gates opened. Joyce hit an RBI double, and Harry Dill worked a full-count walk before Derifield connected on his first home run. Jake Gilbert walked, and he was brought home on a double to right by Freddy Bloom. Bloom came home on Thompson's second double of the inning, and Brandel Turner followed with an RBI single to left.

Suddenly, Newport Beach was ahead, 10-0.

"What happened was that the power train kept a-rolling," Rick Dill said. "Our kids have so much power that once they start hitting them, it just seems contagious. The ball just flies out."

Central Garden Grove tried to respond. Ryan May's three-run homer to left cut the lead to 10-4 in the bottom of the fifth. Hyde walked, Sam Jacobi singled and Johnny Luna was hit by a pitch, and Garden Grove had the bases loaded with two outs.

But Thompson came in to pitch, getting a strikeout on five pitches to get out of the jam.

"I rely on my offense," said Thompson, who was three for four himself with a pair of RBIs. "All I have to do is throw strikes and have my defense back me up. They back us up offensively [too], so we're pretty good there."

Newport Beach then scored eight more runs in the sixth, highlighted by Derifield's second home run, to put the game away. Derifield, who will be an eighth-grader in the fall, credited the support of his father, Rodney.

"He's just been encouraging me everyday," Morgan Derifield said. "Coming into those games and getting those texts and calls from my dad, it's really been helping me."

Bloom and Joyce also pitched strong for Newport Beach. Spencer Hook, Tyler Flood, Nick Gilbert and Sachin Gokhale also contributed for the winners, who are now into uncharted territory for Newport Beach Little League.

They don't seem to mind that, though.

"We're just always consistent," Derifield said. "We usually never get out, and if we do, it's because the pitcher did a pretty good job. We don't make dumb mistakes. Just hitting back to back to back [home runs] sometimes, it helps our pitchers. We go back out on the mound and have that momentum, and just take over the game."

Even the black fence was not safe.

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