Red Sox repeat as little league champs

The reigning champs beat the Cubs, 10-0. In the minor league matchup, the Dodgers beat the Orioles, 9-2.

Martha's Vineyard Cubs pitcher Keaton Aliberti strikes out a Red Sox batter during the Little League championship game. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The Red Sox beat the Cubs, 10-0, Saturday afternoon at Veira Park and claimed the title of Martha’s Vineyard Little League major league champs for the second consecutive year.

Earlier in the day, the Dodgers became the minor league champions with a 9-2 win over the Orioles. Both games were played before crowds of several hundred enthusiastic and courteous family and friends.

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Little Leaguers Emily Mello and Hoffie Hearn sang the national anthem before both tilts. Emily’s coach and dad, Rick Mello, accompanied on electric guitar on a perfect day for baseball.

Both the Red Sox, in the major league game, and the Dodgers, in the junior circuit, won by virtue of two explosive innings in what were otherwise tight, high-quality baseball games.

Former Little League and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School standouts Will Stewart and Ben Ciciora threw out the ceremonial first pitches before the Red Sox (17-1) took on the Cubs (13-5). Current MVRHS star Tim Roberts threw the minor league game’s first pitch between the Dodgers (14-2) and Orioles (14-1). Ken Goldberg, Bill Vrooman, and Larry Johnson umpired both games.

Big bats power the Sox

Saturday was Jake Howell’s time. The Red Sox starting pitcher mixed a fastball and a changeup with movement to keep Cub hitters off-balance and off the board for four and two-thirds innings, striking out 12. Pete Gillis walked for the Cubs to open the game before Jake struck out the side. He finished the season with a 5-0 record and 2 runs in nearly 24 innings.

Cubs starter Keaton Aliberti was also dominant early, surrendering a first-inning run on an infield single to Red Sox leadoff hitter Peter Burke who advanced to third before scoring on Joe Serpa’s infield out, giving the Sox a 1-0 lead.

The Cubs had a golden opportunity in the second when they loaded the bases. Andrew Marchand boomed a double to right, Mike O’Brien worked a walk on a long at-bat, and Max Potter’s sharp single to right advanced them, but a crisp grounder to third with two outs resulted in a force-out.

The Red Sox went quietly in the second as Keaton struck out the side, on his way to five consecutive Ks. Jake returned the favor with three Cub K’s in the third. The Red Sox struck for five runs in the bottom of the third, courtesy of walks and two-run singles by Jeremy Regan and Joe Serpa. Lefty Mike O’Brien relieved and recorded a strikeout before Joe Serpa stole home and Oliver Lively walked to force in a run. Andrew Marchand relieved Mike and got the final out.

Following a break for a rendition of Sweet Caroline, the Boston Red Sox seventh-inning anthem, in the top of the fifth, the Cubs’ Pete Gillis ripped a single into right. Jake Howell reached his pitch limit (85 per game) and was relieved by Jared Regan, who snuffed the threat with the help of a pickoff.

The Red Sox ended the game in the bottom of the inning, scoring four runs on triples by Oliver Martin and Jeremy Regan, chasing home Finn Lewis, Nick Cranston, and Peter Burke, who had walked. Then the Dropkick Murphys victory song skirled over the PA and the player pile was on, followed, by the Red Sox team rushing the left field fence and flipping over it, reminiscent of Torii Hunter’s vain try for a David Ortiz homer during the 2013 playoffs.

Dodgers prevail

The Dodgers got busy early in support of starting pitcher Silas Abrams, scoring four in the first, courtesy of a lofty triple by Devonne Saunders and some shaky Oriole defense. The Orioles got a runner to third in their half of the first but Silas’s nice pick of a grounder up the middle ended the threat.

The Dodgers and Orioles both got runners to third base in the second inning but good defense kept them there. The Dodgers began to pull away in the third inning when catcher Jack Lionette roped a double and Silas hit a two-run bomb to support himself. Cam Napior doubled and Owen Dibiaso singled him home to give the Dodgers a 7-0 cushion.

Seamus McKean ended the Dodger scoring with a swinging bunt two-run homer in the fourth after a throw to first tangled the base runner and an O’s defender. The ball skipped merrily down the right field line as Seamus scored behind Jack Crawford, who had walked, for an 9-0 lead.

The O’s kept coming, adding a single run in the fourth when Nate Story singled, advanced to third and scored on a single by Tobey Roberts. The O’s loaded the bases but were unable to add more runs.

In the fifth, after a sparkling catch by O’s shortstop Teagan Myers ended a Dodger threat, the O’s loaded the bases again on a single by Richie Combra and walks to Derek Reed and Mateo Darack but were unable to score.

The O’s closed out the scoring in the sixth inning on a reprise of the Nate Story/Tobey Roberts run-scoring effort in the fourth inning. The Dodgers shut down the O’s final threat and the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” accompanied the player pile.

Future championships will likely be played at a nearly-completed Penn Field on Pennsylvania Avenue. Wherever the games are played, Little League, as it’s played here, offers a sense of pure Americana.

Watching league safety officer Chris Porterfield carefully and artfully channel his inner Joe Mooney (legendary Boston Red Sox groundskeeper) watering the field between games, it became clear that the Island understands and acknowledges the all-volunteer effort that allows us to witness the coming of age of the Jake Howells and Jack Lionettes.