Little Leaguers compete with state’s best

The Vineyard played in the World Series qualifiers last week.


For the first time in five years, the Martha’s Vineyard Little League nominated All-Star teams to compete in the Little League World Series qualifiers this summer, for both the triple-A (ages 9-10) and major league (11-13) divisions.

According to coaches Moira Silva and Adam Cummings, it was the first time most of their players had traveled off-Island to play baseball. “The kids were so excited and wide-eyed,” Silva stated. “There was so much enthusiasm about being a part of this.”

After hosting games on June 23 and 26, respectively, the triple-A All-Star team faced off against Sandwich on the mainland, and the major leaguers in Bridgewater. 

In Sandwich on the 27th, the Vineyard played a competitive pitchers’ duel that came down to the last out. On the mound, Marlin Goodwin and Cruz Cancellare combined for a fantastic five innings, limiting Sandwich to only three runs. Then, in the top of the sixth, a Vineyard rally loaded the bases, needing only two runs to tie it at three apiece. 

“It was one of the most competitive games longtime Coach Joe Merry had seen,” Silva stated.

With two outs, a high fly ball was finally snagged by a Sandwich outfielder, unfortunately ending the Vineyard’s triple-A LLWS run. Regardless of the loss, however, Silva and co. say they are extremely proud of how fast their All-Stars are improving.

“They’re like sponges!” Silva said. “Our defense is great. Cruz and Marlin have clearly learned so much already about both pitching and fielding while pitching; Willow Binney’s glove is a magnet at first … [On offense,] Coach Drew Kelly has been teaching them aggressive baserunning … They’re learning so much as they go.”

Meanwhile, the major leaguers also played a couple of thrillers in Bridgewater on June 29. After losing 6-1 at home to Bridgewater’s towering 6-foot, 1-inch ace, the Vineyard took their turn quieting the opposition in Game 2. Facing elimination, Jax Trott and Ryan Heidt held Bridgewater to only three runs, guiding the Vineyard to a crucial 5-3 win.

“Jax has a great fastball, and Ryan has a great curveball,” Cummings said. “We controlled that entire game.”

With both teams facing elimination in Game 3, Bridgewater came out swinging, quickly building an 8-0 lead after two innings. But the Vineyard refused to go away without a fight, gradually mounting an incredible comeback. Scoring two in the third, and then two in the fourth, a pair of two-run home runs from Trott and Jason Alton in the fifth inning finally tied the game up at 8-8.

“They were shots; out of the park!” Cummings exclaimed.

In the end, the Vineyard lost 12-8, but it was an empowering experience for Cummings and co. overall, who were big underdogs going into the series against Bridgewater. The Vineyard was the only All-Star team in the Cape and islands not entirely comprised of 13-year-olds, and similar to the Vineyard’s triple-A team, only had a couple of opportunities to practice together before the LLWS qualifiers started.

“The kids performed well above how anyone thought they were going to,” Cummings explained. “The parents, coaches, and players all want to keep playing games.”

This July, both the triple-A and major league All-Star teams will continue to attend tournaments on the mainland. The triple-A squad is coached by Silva, Merry, and Drew Kelly; the major league team is coached by Cummings, Donny Gregory, and Ryan Ruley.