Malibu Little League baseball races heating up

Quin Richards of the Phillies slides home safely in a 10-0 win last Saturday.

With the Malibu Little League postseason only three weeks away, teams are positioning for their respective playoff seeding with hopes and dreams of being crowned an MLL champion. Fifteen teams comprised of more than 150 kids have competed for the past seven weeks in hardball focusing on fundamentals, individual improvement and team play.

The Phillies have won 10 straight games since a 3-3 tie against the Marlins back on March 4. The Phillies are the two-time defending champion of the Majors Division. They are peaking at the right time having outscored their opponents, 52-4, in the past four games.

“First, it’s really a team. The guys genuinely like each other, they get along and they have fun. Second, and most obvious, this team works really hard,” Phillies manager Len Simonian said. “I typically have my team practicing a lot (two to three times a week). You play the way you practice. I’m appreciative of the parents and kids because they are committed. These boys have great attitudes and they never quit.”

Simonian, in his fourth year as a manager in MLL, pointed out how his team has progressed in hitting. Prior to spring break, the Phillies struck out seven to eight times a game. Since break, they have struck out a total of six times in 90 appearances spanning three games.

“One of the things we have been emphasizing since spring break is improving our rate of contact,” Simonian said. “Let’s be smart hitters in situations and put the ball in play. Good things will happen when you do.”

After a recent 10-0 win against the Dodgers, the Phillies’ Cole Richards credited his coach with the team’s success.

“The team did good and I think I did pretty good myself too,” said Richards, 11, who had a single for two RBI’s in the victory. “I guess our coach chose the right players and he works us hard. We’ve learned techniques on how to do stuff. He’s a really good coach.”

“We’ve been fortunate to have won the last two years. You never know what’s going to happen this year but I feel really good about this team,” Simonian added.

AAA Minors Division

Last weekend’s most exciting game was played between the first place leading White Sox and the third place Giants. In what was a back-and-forth see-saw affair, the two teams tied 10-10.

The Giants broke out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning only to see the White Sox fight right back with three runs. The White Sox then scored four runs in the bottom of the second to take a 7-4 lead. Back came the Giants with three runs in the third to tie the game at seven apiece. The teams each scored two runs in the fifth inning and one in the sixth to end up with the stalemate.

“I think it was a great game. Both teams played well,” White Sox manager Geoff Stern said. “The hitters are getting better and are catching up to the better pitchers in the league. Our pitching all year has been good and we are definitely getting timely hits like today. The practicing and the extra time the kids are putting in are beginning to show.”

“We are a strong team and my teammates are all really nice,” said Nathaniel Mulder, 9, of the White Sox. “I’ve learned a lot about fielding and hitting. It’s fun because we get to hit the ball, pitch the ball and play the infield. Everyone gets a turn.”

The Giants are 5-1-1 in their last seven games. Giants manager Steve Prudholme is happy with the team’s progress.

“We have a young team this year so we started off kind of slow. We are coming along,” Prudholme said. “Our younger players are doing better and our returning players have gotten a lot better. I think we are ready to go for the playoffs.”

Nine-year-old Royce Clayton, Jr., of the Giants shared his feelings about the baseball season.

“It’s fun to do and you have to practice a lot to get good at it. I want to get better as a teammate,” he said.

As for his favorite moment so far?

“When (teammate) Riley Banvard made his first catch against the Nationals. He caught a fly ball and everybody started clapping and screaming,” said Clayton with a huge smile on his face.

Isn’t that what little league baseball is all about? Spoken like a true teammate.

AA Minors Division

The White Sox won their first five games of the season en route to the division’s best record. Playoffs begin the week of May 13.