The A’s rode the bat of Hoffie “Big Papi” Hearn and the glove of Tobey Roberts to become the 2015 Martha’s Vineyard major Little League champions, with an 8-7 comeback win over the scrappy Red Sox on Saturday afternoon at Penn Field in Oak Bluffs. Earlier in the day, the Marlins, led by three hits and five RBIs from Eamon Savard, took the minor league championship by a 12-7 count over the Tigers.
Big homer erases deficit
Hoffie Hearn hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to help the comeback A’s erase a 7-4 Red Sox lead and tie the game 7-7. The decisive run for the A’s was set up when Matt Moore singled, then moved to second and third on groundouts and stole home.
Max Porter pitched two shutdown innings to preserve the win for the A’s in a classic Little League contest that featured stellar, heady play from two very good teams.
While Hoffie’s Papi-esque late-inning bomb over the right field wall was the offensive difference maker, the A’s are also thanking center fielder Tobey Roberts, who made three insane diving catches, two on successive plays, to keep the surging Red Sox off the board in the middle and late innings.
Before the game, veteran Umpire Larry Johnson said he’s seen an upgrade in the caliber of play in recent years, which he ascribed to the Island’s baseball coaching talent: “You can see it. These kids are better prepared; they can hold their own anywhere, and that’s a result of the coaching they get,” he said.
Mr. Johnson called balls and strikes and colleague Bill Vrooman had a busy day umpiring the bases on a sun-dappled Saturday that reminded us just why baseball is America’s pastime.
The major league championship game lived up to Mr. Johnson’s assessment with steady defensive play, aggressive baserunning, strategic play, and clutch pitching and hitting from both squads. The matchup featured the second-place A’s (9-7 regular season) against the “Cinderella” Red Sox (5-10 regular season), who beat the (14-1-1 regular-season) Cubs three days earlier to advance to the championship game.
The Red Sox went up 2-0 in the first inning on Aiden Marek and Owen Mettell RBI singles before Max Porter got one back for the A’s on a RBI groundout. The Red Sox added another in the second on Aiden Rogers’ sacrifice fly on a double-saving catch by Oliver Lively, scoring Jakie Glasgow, who had led off the inning with an opposite-field double, a good piece of hitting off Nate Porterfield, who was bringing the heat on Saturday.
Both teams scratched to manufacture runs off both the A’s Nate and Sox pitcher Jason Kurth. They bunted, moved runners up, each team using groundouts and sacrifice flies to score. Each team also had a runner thrown out at the plate.
With the A’s leading 4-3 in the top of the fourth, the Red Sox strung together a series of base hits to take a 6-4 lead in an inning that looked like it might be bigger before two A’s relays nailed a runner at the plate and A’s second-sacker Jack Lionette ranged into short right field to track down a pop fly. The Sox added a run in the fifth on a sac fly by Micah Vought on a line drive headed for the right-centerfield alley before Tobey Roberts made a running catch, taking away extra bases.
Tobey would rob the next hitter, Jakie Glasgow, on a sliding catch of a low line drive to keep the score at 7-4 and set the stage for the A’s fifth-inning offensive heroics. In the Red Sox sixth inning, Tobey would rob leadoff hitter Aiden Rogers, catching a frozen rope at his shoe tops in a one-run game.
Marlins sink Tigers
The Tigers roared out in the first inning, scoring four times after two outs, on a combination of timely hitting and plate patience, turning five walks and two singles into four runs.
The Marlins wasted no time in response, rattling four hits and two walks of their own to knot the game at 4 in the bottom of the first, including two RBIs on a single by Marlin’s pitcher Eamon Savard to help himself.
These two teams finished the season in a tie for first place, with the Marlins getting the No. 1 seed by virtue of winning the season series against the Tigers. And for four and one-half innings, the teams kept umpires Noah Richards and Mike McCourt hopping as they traded rallies, with the Tigers going up 5-4 on an RBI single in the second from Micah Simmons.
The Fish thrashed back with four of their own to take an 8-5 lead after two innings, with key hits from Faith Thigpen and Eamon Savard. The Tigers cut the lead to 8-7 in the third on Nathan London’s long single that plated a pair.
Pitching and defense took over and contributed to a turning point in the top of the fifth inning. Marlins’ shortstop Cole Lambert took the mound and walked the first two Tigers, then settled down and struck out the side, preserving the one-run lead.
The Marlins exploded for four runs in the fifth, including Kert Kleeman’s third hit of the game and a two-run single from Christian Turner. Cole Lambert fanned the Tigers in the sixth, recording six Ks in two innings of work.