Going up against the dominant defending-champion Reds in the East Hampton Town Little League’s 11-to-12-year-old “world series” presented a challenge for the very young Pirates, but Tim Garneau’s team acquitted itself well in the best-of-three final, which ended with a 4-1 Reds’ victory at the Pantigo fields Friday night.
Steve Minskoff’s Reds finished the regular season with an 11-1 mark, the Pirates, who were the National Division’s runner-up, finished at 7-5. Nevertheless, it was not a David and Goliath affair, the Reds’ coach, Steve Minskoff said. “I only had one returnee this year, Christian Johnson, and only one 12-year-old.”
The Pirates scuttled the Reds 6-4 in game one, “behind the masterful pitching of Elian Abreu,” Garneau said.
The Buccaneers extended an early 1-0 lead with three runs in the fourth inning. John Walters, the center fielder, led it off with a triple, after which Skylar Minardi drove him in with a single. Then Burton Garneau (one of two 9-year-olds on the team, the other being Matthew McGovern) doubled in Minardi for 3-0. The Pirates’ fourth run scored on a fielder’s choice.
The Reds came back, however, scoring once in the bottom of the fifth and plating three more in the sixth (a two-run double by James Foster being the big blow) before Burton Garneau closed them out, on two strikeouts and a popup that he gathered in for the game-ending out.
The Reds reasserted themselves in game two, “mercying” the Pirates 13-3 after four innings. “Ryan Brewer pitched a masterpiece,” said Garneau, “giving up just three hits and striking out seven.”
Patrick DeSanti, Brewer, Christian Johnson, and Hayden Soloviev were among the Reds’ heavy hitters. Soloviev lashed a bases-clearing triple in the top of the fourth that extended the margin to 10-3, after which the Reds tacked on three more runs to close out the game.
Game three, said Garneau, “was a pitchers’ duel — Christian Johnson and Elian matched each other strikeout for strikeout.”
Abreu had to reach back, however, when he confronted bases-loaded, two-out situations in the first and third innings, getting out of the jam each time. The Pirates led 1-0 [the result of a sac fly by J.B. Stewart] going into the bottom of the fifth, at which point the elder Garneau told his charges, “Six more outs and we’re done.”
But it wasn’t to be. Soloviev began the Reds’ comeback by reaching first base safely on an infield error. DeSanti then forced him at second, but Brewer’s single up the middle put runners at the corners for Johnson, who, after taking three balls, was intentionally walked. With the bases loaded and one out, Abreu struck out Max Bahi on three pitches. That brought up James Foster.
Abreu had by that time maxed out his pitch count at 85, and had to give way to Burton Garneau. When play resumed, Foster lofted a two-out bases-loaded blooper just over the second baseman Quentin Bazar’s reach that enabled two runs to come in.
With runners at the corners, a wild pitch enabled Johnson to score the Reds’ third run. An inning-ending strikeout followed, but not before a passed ball led to another run for the Reds, who, by that point led 4-1.
Johnson struck out the Pirates’ J.B. Stewart to lead off the top of the sixth, after which Henry Garneau drew a walk. A wild pitch with John Walters at bat enabled Garneau to go to second, but Johnson came back to strike out Walters for the second out. That pitch proved to be his 85th, which prompted Minskoff to replace Johnson, who went to short, with Nate Wright.
“Guys, we’re a two-out ballclub, let’s do it right here,” the elder Garneau said.
But Wright, after getting two quick strikes on Abreu, clinched the championship — the Reds’ second in a row — as Abreu grounded out to Johnson, who, after the final out was made, rolled delightedly over and over in the dust of the mound as his teammates rushed in to celebrate.
“Christian is unbelievable,” Minskoff said of the winning pitcher, who is 11 years old. “He has another gear like no other kid in our league. You see a kid like him only once in a very long while.”
Minskoff (whose assistant coach is Rudy DeSanti) and Garneau were to have coached East Hampton’s all-star travel teams — Minskoff the 11-12s and Garneau the 9-10s — in District 36 tournaments whose opening-round games were to have been played Monday.
The 9-10s roster comprises Jackson Baris, Tucker Coleman, Logan Gurney, Burton Garneau, Tucker Genovese, Liam Leach, Matthew McGovern, Callum Menelaws, Colin Ruddy, Owen Ruddy, and Hayden Soloviev.
The 11-12 traveling all-stars are Auggie Gladstone, Patrick DeSanti, Max Bahi, Chasen Dubs, Ethan Pratt, James Foster, Seth Martin, Christian Johnson, Kurt Matthews, Anthony Genovese, Lou Britton, Elian Abreu, and Ryan Brewer.