The Rays emerged victorious in a 3-2 battle against the highly motivated Dodgers during Sunday’s rain-date championship game at Penn Field in Oak Bluffs.
With Rays starting pitcher Eli Bryant bringing his good stuff to open up the game, as well as an impressive start from Dodgers pitcher Leo Napior, the crowd knew they were in for an intense game.
“We’re gonna get it today,” Rays head coach Jeremy Light said before the game. “All these games have been very close, but I think we are going to come out on top.”
After a three-inning deadlock, the Rays led off with two bunt singles by Gus Lambert and Jacoby Light in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring on a missed tag by the Dodgers at home plate. After the Rays got two runners home, the game shifted and the action intensified. Rays pitcher Eli Bryant hit a two-run triple to pull away 3-0 before the start of the fifth inning. Eli pitched four straight innings, and then gave the mound to Gus Lambert, who was replaced by Jacoby who pitched a near perfect two innings to close out the game. “He [Eli] hasn’t lost a game all year. He is kind of our ace,” Light said.
The Dodgers came back with a forced walk-in run with the bases loaded, followed by an RBI that closed the gap between the two teams at 3-2.
Erin Lambert watched as her son Gus stepped back to avoid a screaming inside pitch from Leo. “Come on Rays, let’s get those bats going,” said Lambert. “I think they are a little nervous, but they will warm up soon.”
Danielle Light, mother of Jacoby Light and wife of Coach Light, said it was perfect weather for a baseball game, not too cold and not too hot, with a bit of cloud cover and a soft breeze. “Memorial Day we got soaked; this type of weather is definitely the best,” said Light.
Erika Mulvey watched as her daughter Avery stepped up to bat. She said that her daughter doesn’t mind being one of the only girls on the Rays. “It has never stopped her or slowed her down,” said Mulvey. “She is a serious athlete.”
After a hit by Dodgers player Max Metell in the sixth inning, his mother Allison Metell clapped and cheered. “We just need one more run,” said Metell.
The game ended up being an intense pitching battle with Leo pitching a complete game and giving up only three hits, while Jacoby was able to close out the game with a save.
“Both teams should be so proud,” Chris Roberts, president of Martha’s Vineyard Little League, said after the game. “I want to thank the parents for all the trips to practices. This stuff doesn’t happen without them.”
Roberts said that the most important thing is the Island community and the mutual feeling of respect for both teams. “In the end, it’s all Vineyard kids, on a Vineyard field,” said Roberts.
Head coach for the Dodgers Jay Napior said both teams deserve to be commended for their athleticism and sportsmanship. “This was the best game I have seen in the Triple A division,” said Napior. “It’s a great display of showing what they have been working on all year long.”
Napior said he was especially impressed with how clean the game was, and how a no-error game is quite rare in Little League baseball. “You just don’t see this type of performance happen,” he said.
He then addressed his team, expressing his pride for the young players. “These guys played amazingly, they are champions in my book,” said Napior.
Coach Light gathered his team after the game for one last huddle. “I’m so proud of you guys, I’m going to miss this so much,” said Light.