Mayor's Cup: Nothing decided just yet

COSTA MESA — One manager clung to discretion when asked about his next starting pitcher, but there is no secret who will have recent history on their side when the Costa Mesa Mayor's Cup Little League Baseball tournament is decided Saturday at Costa Mesa High.

The Costa Mesa American Little League Majors Division All-Stars seized an 8-0 lead and held on for an 8-5 victory over Costa Mesa National on Thursday at TeWinkle Intermediate, evening the best-of-three series at one game apiece.

Costa Mesa National, which won the opener, 3-0, behind a complete-game shutout by Rachel Nishitani on Tuesday at Costa Mesa High, has won the last six Mayor's Cup titles.

"Their guys will be motivated to keep the trophy and our kids will be motivated to take it back," said Costa Mesa American Manager Clark Chapman after his team scored six runs on eight hits in the first two innings to gain command on Thursday.

Three of the four first-inning runs scored after two were out. Blake Junker opened the game with a double and scored on the second out of the inning, a run-scoring groundout by Cameron Chapman.

Matthew Swartz, who struck out seven and allowed just two hits in four-plus innings to earn the pitching victory, then doubled and went to third on a single by Matthew Ingram. After John Koskela was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Swartz scored on a wild pitch.

Jonathan Barton followed with an RBI single and another run scored on a throwing error to put the visitors in control.

Costa Mesa American scored single runs in the third and fourth, while Swartz, who struck out the first six batters he faced in relief on Tuesday, continued to master the Costa Mesa National hitters.

Johnny Hopkins broke up Swartz's no-hitter with a single in the third and Trevor Pacheco doubled in the fourth. When Swartz exited after walking the leadoff batter in the fifth, no runner had reached second base against him.

But Jeremy Gardner greeted the first Costa Mesa American reliever with a two-run homer that plated Nishitani, who walked in all three of her plate appearances.

Grant L'Heureux followed with a single and after Jake Alai, Hopkins and Justin Strauss added singles, the hosts had closed to within three.

Nishitani walked with two outs in the sixth and Gardner followed with a single to bring the trying run to the plate for Costa Mesa National. But Ingram, who allowed one hit in 1 1/3 innings to nail the door shut, induced a grounder to shortstop that Cameron Chapman fielded and stepped on second for the game-ending force out.

Ingram will start on the mound for Costa Mesa American on Saturday, a game in which neither Swartz nor Nishitani can pitch, due to Little League pitch-count restrictions.

"Game-time decision," Costa Mesa National Manager Pete Strauss said when asked who will start on the bump for the league based at TeWinkle. "I'm keeping it close to the vest."

Gardner and Hopkins finished two for three to lead Costa Mesa National's eight-hit attack.

Cameron Chapman and Junker were two for three to pace a Costa Mesa American lineup that had hits from nine of its 13 members (Little League rules allow all players to hit sequentially, even as they are rotated in and out defensively).

Munoz, Adrien Orosco, Nick Segovia and Jack Jones also added hits for the winners, for whom Adam Axtell and Gage Kerley also reached base.

Lucas Woodruff also drove in a run for Costa Mesa American

Costa Mesa American will try to win without Clark and Cameron Chapman, who are leaving on vacation and will miss Saturday's finale.

"I've got a good group of kids out there," Clark Chapman said. "I'm going to miss them."

Coach Mark Ingram will fill in for Clark Chapman as manager on Saturday.

Connor Griffen, Hayden Pearce, Garrett Palme, Dylan Delaney and Ian Schilling rounded out the lineup for Costa Mesa National, which committed six of the game's nine errors.

Saturday's rubber game is at 9 a.m.

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