The Cubs shook off their winter rust quickly, surging to a 15-0 opening-day win over the Red Sox in Martha’s Vineyard Little League major league play on Monday at chilly Vieira Field in Oak Bluffs. The two opening-day teams played each other for the Island little league majors championship last June, won 10-0 by the Red Sox.
The visiting Cubs struck early and often, scoring four runs in the first inning en route to a mercy-rule-shortened game after four innings. The teams continued to scrimmage after the formal conclusion, as players and coaches experimented with real game conditions after a month of practice.
The Cubs’ starter, 11-year-old Keaton Aliberti, looked in midseason form, allowing no runs or hits, and striking out four in two innings of work. Cam Napior and Silas Abrams pitched shutout ball in relief for the Cubs. Owen DiBiasi made his first major league start for the Red Sox, striking out three in two-plus innings of work, but was victimized by control problems and timely hitting by the Cubs with runners in scoring position. Liam Marek relieved in the third for the Red Sox, pitching to his brother, catcher Aiden Marek. Owen Metell pitched the fourth for the Red Sox.
No doubt the defending champion Red Sox will get on track, but the offense on opening day belonged to Cubby hitters, including Keaton Aliberti, Pete Gillis, and Andrew Marchant, who sprayed hard line-drive hits to the outfield gaps.
Red Sox player Jakie Glasgow provided his team with its best scoring chance in the third, and won The Times’ coveted Gritty Player Award in the process. Jake was struck under his right eye by a foul ball off his own swing, elected to stay in the game, then walked and stole second and third with no outs. Cubs pitcher Cam Napior stranded him there with two Ks and a groundout. Jakie left the game then, sporting a grin and the beginnings of a memorable shiner.
Both teams showed some dazzling fielding in the early-season cold. Red Sox first baseman Emily Mello made two stylish picks, and completed a successful pickoff with catcher Aiden Marek. Sox outfielder Atlas Zack showed a strong, accurate outfield arm. Cubs infielders Jonathan Norton and Finn Lewis had stellar defensive games.
The high quality of play Monday night is indicative of good coaching of fundamentals here. Island youth teams in baseball, hockey, and soccer are faring well in national and regional tournaments in recent years, including a strong showing by Island Little Leaguers at a baseball tournament in Maryland last August. Perhaps indicative of skills training at an early age here, a new 2015 rule change, designed to ensure parity of play, requires even 10-year-old Island baseball players to try out for the major leagues.