One game ended with a huge hit to center right field driving in the winning run and the other game ended in a strikeout to secure the lead, but the reactions were much the same. Little League players raced from their dugouts to swarm the teammate who had clinched the win and secured the trophy.
The Rays pulled off a last inning 11-10 win over the Twins in the Minor League championship game on Saturday, and the Red Sox relied on strong pitching to pull away from the Tigers 8-2 in the Major League division.
The Tigers took the lead in their very first at-bat as Ryan Scanlon drilled a solo home run to put his team up 1-0. Willson Slayton of the Red Sox answered in the bottom of the inning with a home run of his own, putting the Sox ahead as he sent himself and teammate Finn Lewis home. Michael Habekost of the Tigers evened the game in the second on an RBI single by Aiden Smith.
Ruby Mercier at bat and Nico Arroyo behind the plate.
— Ivy Ashe
With the game tied 2-2 in the third inning, Red Sox ace Jake Howell stepped onto the mound and held the Tigers scoreless for the remainder of the game. Michael Habekost turned in a strong performance for the Tigers, striking out seven, and Hollis Kelly closed out the game, striking out one.
Sam Cranston of the Sox opened the bottom of the third with a triple and made it home on another Willson Slayton RBI, while younger brother Nick and teammate Peter Burke scored in the fourth to make the game 5-2. In the fifth, catcher Jared Regan had an RBI double and later scored on a Joe Serpa double. Jake Howell, steady throughout the game, fired a strike for his last pitch to secure the victory.
“This group of kids, for me, has been just phenomenal this year,” Red Sox coach Lorne Lewis said as the Sox picked up their trophies, acknowledging both the players’ efforts and the people who make those efforts possible. “I just can’t say enough about the team and their parents.”
Sam Cranston and Finn Lewis of the Red Sox, of course.
— Ivy Ashe
The Minor League game was a battle from the start, with the Rays and the Twins proving more than equal matches for one another. After the Twins drove in two runs in the third to even the score at 4-4, a slew of Rays stolen bases provided the setup for Emily Mello to launch a perfect drive to right field and send her team ahead, 6-4.
The Twins jumped back in in the fourth as Owen DiBiaso scored on a Harper Hearn hit to make the game 6-5. Teammate Cam Napior turned in key defensive plays at third base to keep the Twins in the game. In the top of the fifth inning, the based were loaded and two runs came in on walks to put the Twins up 7-6. Silas Abrams added an RBI to put the Twins up 8-6.
The Rays came out swinging in the 5th, with RBI doubles by Eric Lehmberg and Atlas Zack evening the score at 8-8. Emily Mello had her second two-run RBI of the game shortly after, sending Tegan Fenner and Ruby Mercier home. After 5 full innings of play the score was 10-8 Rays.
At the top of the 6th, the last inning of play, Eric Lehmberg struck out the first two Twins' batters. But the Twins rallied, scoring two runs to tie the game at 10-10 before ending the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Elijah Dunn-Feiner extended the Rays’ stolen-base count with a swipe of third and Jason Kurth began to work the count at the plate, with his teammates shouting encouragement from the dugout. Jason connected with his pitch, driving it deep into the outfield and sending Elijah home. The celebration began as soon as his foot touched the plate.
“The point of Little League is twofold,” board secretary Drew Kelly said before the Major League first-pitch ceremony. “To have fun and be competitive—and we’re very successful at both.”