Solanco Little League's Minor Division All-Stars preferred not to procrastinate.
Solanco needed one win over Warwick Little League to capture the District 23 championship whereas the visitors had to post two consecutive victories to take the title.
Instead of hedging its bet, Solanco elected to put all the eggs in one basket and did not crack under the strain, earning the district crown with an 8-3 triumph Tuesday, July 12 at the Solanco Little League Complex.
Even after falling behind 3-1, Solanco remained steadfast in its quest to avoid a decisive game the following night. Lefty Nathan Esh came on in relief with two outs in the top of the third and retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced. Solanco's bats came alive and the hosts pulled away.
Down by two, Solanco rallied for three runs in the home half of the third to take the lead for good. Coleson Brown led off with a single on a pop fly to shallow right. The Warwick second baseman tried to make a sliding catch but could not hold on. After a strikeout, Esh reached on an error by the pitcher. With runners on first and third, Dylan Roberts beat out a roller to second and Brown scored. Jase Wood walked to load the bases and Trey Cox walked to force in the tying run. With two outs, the go-ahead run crossed the plate on an error as the catcher was trying to throw the ball back to the pitcher.
The combination of good pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting is an unbeatable formula at every level of baseball from the Major League to the Minor Division.
That was the case again.
Solanco played excellent defense in support of Esh, escpeially in a 1-2-3 fourth inning. Third baseman Harry O'Connell fielded a smash and fired to first to get the leadoff batter. Then second baseman Christopher Malloy lunged to his right to knock down a grounder up the middle for the second out. Esh fanned the final hitter of the frame.
Solanco tacked on two in the bottom of the fourth. Brown walked with one out and went to second on a wild pitch. Malloy laid down a bunt between the mound and third base line. Warwick tried to get Brown at third but threw the ball away and Brown scored. Following a strikeout, Roberts drilled an RBI single to left to make it 6-3.
Solanco tallied twice in the fifth. Aidan Cross reached on a one-out error. Jordan Hall singled to center and Liam Foley was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Brown hit another popup to shallow right and once again the second baseman was unable to make the catch. Warwick was able to get a force at second, but pinch runner Jace Aukamp scored easily and Hall hustled home for another insurance run.
In the top of the sixth, Esh whiffed the first two batters before yielding a walk, the only baserunner he allowed in 3 1/3 innings. Esh struck out the next batter to secure the district title.
"I was really proud," Solanco manager Todd Brown said. "We had a lot of battles. I feel like the strike zone was a little tight. It was right on but I felt like our pitchers were battling. And then when they put the ball in play we made phenomenal plays. Guys were making some dives and great throws across the diamond. Harry O'Connell came up big. Jase Wood came up big, along with Christopher Malloy. Just playing solid defense. And our catchers (Dylan Roberts and Robby Evans) did really well. We only gave up one or two steals and it really, really helped."
Warwick scored a pair of runs in the second before a nearby lightning strike forced a 30-minute delay. Solanco cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom half. Roberts walked, O'Connell singled to left, Cox was hit by a pitch, and Cross drove in a run on a comebacker.
Warwick stretched its lead to 3-1 in the third before Esh came on to replace the starter Brown.
"We sold out for this game," said manager Todd Brown. "When we were down 3-1 we had to decide whether to roll the dice with Nathan coming in or do we have to save him for [a possible game the following night]. We felt good about it. He came in, got an out to shut down that inning. We had the bats to go ahead and thought, 'Let's roll the dice here and play for tonight rather than play for tomorrow'."