Malibu Little Leaguers reach semifinals of All-Star tournament

The 11- 12-year-old Little League All-Stars, managed by George Henry, with coaches John Poyer and Rob Morrison, made it to the district tournament semifinals last weekend.

The two-game elimination tournament commenced July 6 and featured 10 All-Star teams, including: West Los Angeles, Culver City National, Culver City Little League, Playa Vista, North Venice, South Los Angeles, Santa Monica East, Santa Monica West, Beverly Hills, and Malibu.

Malibu drew a bye in the first round and opened play against crosstown rival Beverly Hills July 10. Malibu pounded out 13 hits, including home runs by Tim Poyer and Jason Bizar, and Justin Henry lined a double off the center field fence in a 14-1 romp that was called at the end of three-and-a-half innings due to the “mercy rule.” In a pinch hit role, Brian Kelly slammed a double to center in the third. Bizar was the starting pitcher for Malibu and struck out five as he notched his first tournament win.

In game two against Playa Vista July 12, Jeff Brumagin started on the mound for Malibu and pitched a strong two innings before running into trouble in the third. With Malibu ahead by 3-1, Playa Vista sent eight batters to the plate and went ahead 6-3. Malibu’s hitting attack netted eight hits, led by Henry, who went two for three including a triple in the first inning to score two runs. Kelly had a long single to the wall in right center, which just missed going out. Patrick Morrison and Leif Sunderland pitched well in relief as Malibu lost its first game 3-1 and was knocked into the losing tier of the tournament only one game from elimination.

Game three was played July 16 against North Venice, who was also facing elimination due to a previous loss. Malibu’s defense dug in and limited North Venice to just three hits, two of which were empty base home runs, while Malibu’s offense came up with nine hits to prevail 3-2 in six innings. Poyer went two for three and Chris Auten and Henry went 2 for 2 to lead the attack. Gary Daly played a solid third base in his first tournament start, and Zak Katz played well at second base as he caught a fly ball down the right field line in the sixth. Bizar picked up his second straight tournament win as he pitched all six innings and kept the North Venice hitters off stride with a combination of fast balls and off-speed change ups and curve balls.

In game four July 18 against Santa Monica West, Malibu found itself in a real nail biter after coasting to a 5-1 lead through the first five innings. Patrick Morrison made his pitching debut for Malibu and was strong as he struck out eight and held Santa Monica West to just two hits over the first five innings. However, in the top of the sixth, Santa Monica West staged a comeback and scored three runs to cut Malibu’s lead to just one run. Sunderland, who had not played in the entire game, was called off the bench to relieve Morrison with the bases loaded and two outs. Sunderland kept the ball low, but went to a 3-1 count with the tying run on third before coming in with strike two at the knees. On a 3-2 count, he froze the batter with another pitch at the knees for a called third strike as he picked up his first tournament save and kept Malibu alive in the two-game elimination tournament. Malibu managed just four hits, but persevered to improve its playoff record to 3-1. The defensive highlight of the game happened in the bottom of the second inning when Poyer just missed his second home run of the tournament when the center fielder for Santa Monica West went to the wall and leaned over to rob Poyer of a ball headed out of the park.

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Game five was played July 19 against West Los Angeles. Bizar pitched well in going all six innings and holding West Los Angeles to just three hits, but Malibu trailed 4-0 going into the bottom of the sixth. Just as they had done all tournament, the All-Stars from Malibu refused to go quietly and staged a rally behind Poyer’s three-run blast to center field, his second home run of the tournament, to cut the lead to 4-3. With two outs, Auten singled to left and Daly hit a single to the wall in right center to send Auten to third. With the tying run on third, Brumagin, on a 1-2 count, hit a fly to short right field that was caught by the second baseman as the Malibu comeback fell just one run short.

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