Updated June 28, 2017
The top-seeded Cubs beat the Cinderella-team Pirates by a 5-0 score in Oak Bluffs to repeat as the Martha’s Vineyard Little League (MVLL) Major League champions. The game was played Saturday afternoon at Penn Field in Oak Bluffs.
Earlier in the day, the Rays defeated the Mets twice, 14-4 and 8-4, to grab the Minor League championship at Penn Field.
Major League Championship
The Cubs-Pirates game was a replay from the 2016 championship tilt as the Cubs rode the magic arm of Cam Napior (12 Ks) and his 5⅔ shutout innings. Mr. Napior also hit a two-run double, and Latham Higgins slugged a late two-run homer.
Mr. Napior’s bat and glove were also critical in the Cubs 2016 win. He pitched 4⅔ shutout innings against the Pirates in the 9-0 championship win last year.
On Saturday, victory would prove more difficult. Mr. Napior and Pirates hurler Tobey Roberts matched two shutout innings before Mr. Napior’s third-inning windblown double scored two baserunners. He then scored on an errant throw for a 3-0 Cubs lead. Mr. Higgins added his inside-the-park blast two innings later for an additional two-run cushion after five innings.
The scrappy, undermanned, and fourth-seeded Pirates overcame a 6-10 regular-season mark and the loss of three players to injury and travel plans to win three playoff games and advance to the championship round, calling upon Dodger player Noah Manning to fill out their championship game roster. Mr. Roberts had two of the five Pirate hits in the contest.
Championship games are supposed to be high-quality contests, and this one certainly was, with only one walk between both teams and a minimum of errors. The difference was Mr. Napior’s overpowering pitching and timely Cub hitting.
The Pirates looked as though they had a chance to solve the dominant Cubs hurler in the first inning. After a Pirate strikeout and a hard groundout to open the game, Mr. Roberts beat out an infield grounder and advanced to second on an errant throw, but a strikeout ended the early threat.
Cubs catcher Liam Marek walked with one out in the first before Mr. Roberts induced a fielder’s choice and a strikeout. Mr. Roberts shut down the Cubs after a second-inning single by Kertie Kleeman.
The Pirates also brewed a rally in the third inning with singles from Devonne Saunders and Nate Story with one out, before a strikeout and a Tobey Roberts lineout to Cubs shortstop Ethan DiBiaso ended the threat.
Mr. DiBiaso led off the Cubs’ third with a single, and advanced on Mr. Marek’s single before Mr. Napior launched a fly ball into a strong left-to-right wind that went for a double, scoring both baserunners. Tristan Scott followed with a single one out later, and the Cubs had a three-run lead.
Mr. Napior then struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings, allowing only one Pirate hit, a ringing single by Hardy “Big Papi” Eville in the fifth inning. Mr. Higgins struck for the Cubs in the bottom of the fifth, sending a long fly ball bouncing to the right-field fence with Mr. Napior on board. Mr. Higgins dug around the bases, and beat a nice sweep and tag by Pirates’ catcher Harper Hearn.
In the sixth, Mr. Napior struck out two Pirates, sandwiched around a Tobey Roberts double. Mr. Napior had reached his pitch limit at that point, and Latham Higgins relieved for the final out, throwing Mr. Roberts out at third on an attempted steal to end the game.
The Cubs end the season at 15-4, and the Pirates at 9-12.
Minor League Championship
In earlier action, the Rays topped the Mets twice in a doubleheader to take the MVLL Minor League (AAA) crown by scores of 14-4 and 8-4 in a marathon morning which featured a nearly two-hour rain delay during the first game.
Leo (“Lights Out”) Napior had four hits for the Mets in the twin bill, while Avery Mulvey had three hits, including a triple and a home run for the Rays. The Rays ended their season at 17-3, and the Mets finished at 12-8.
The Rays struck early and often in the first game, scoring four runs in each of the first three innings after the Mets began the contest by scoring three runs in the top of the first, with Claus Smith (2 RBI) and Walter Prescott providing the margin. The Mets scored their final run in the third inning, with Fletcher Zack scoring on a Mason Cron single.
The game was called after 4½ innings because of run disparity.
If the Major League play is more clinically pure, the Minor League games require more fan patience but offer joyful, spontaneous moments worth the wait. For example, the Rays’ Avery Mulvey hit what most of us recognized as a single in the second inning with two runners on.
Ms. Mulvey, however, saw it as a triple. She didn’t slow down at first base, didn’t hesitate at second base and pulled into third as startled Mets fielders attempted to track her down with throws to second and third. Fans on both sides applauded her on a play you’d watch on ESPN highlights.
Winning Rays hurler Broden Vincent put up a web gem of his own in the second inning, diving with full extension to his right on a sharply hit ground ball, then throwing to first from his knees to nip speedy Met Jack Engler at first.
Being a catcher is a tough job, particularly at the instructional level in which pitchers are learning their craft. We saw two good ones on Saturday in the Rays’ Luciano Baldwin and the Met’s Leo Napior, who proved the adage that catchers are born, not raised.
In the second game, the Rays put up three runs in the second for the early lead, and added four in the fourth and one in the fifth to answer a Mets three-run uprising in the fourth.
After four strong innings from Rays starter Eli Bryant, the Mets would rally for two runs in the sixth before the Rays infield retired the last two batters on ground balls.
For the Mets, Leo Napior had three hits and scored twice in the nightcap, while Claus Smith doubled and scored twice. Matthew Coggins singled and hit the ball hard in three other at-bats.
Tristan Pinelli and Wes Wlodyka each had a pair of hits for the Rays. Luciano Baldwin chipped in with a double, Eli Bryant had a single, and Adrian Alberghini contributed a run-scoring single, his second hit and third RBI of the twin bill.