For the first time in the history of Malibu Little League, a 9- 10-year-old All-Star team won the District 25 championship. The squad staged an amazing comeback, beating Culver City 14-2 July 21 to win the two-week double elimination tournament.
The team had lost its first game 7-6 to Playa Vista and had to travel through the loser’s bracket to reach the championships. The team won the next seven games in a row to capture the crown.
The team batting average for eight games was .470. The team averaged 10.5 runs a game. The team scored 84 runs to the opposition’s 39.
The pitching staff threw two one-hitters and repeatedly shut down the opposition at the most important moments.
The team included Brett Weinstock, Jason Puklus, Brooks Fitch, Travis Turek, Grady Berk, Jamie Van Soelen, Colbie Bell, Alex Berrios, Matt Hale, Jake Mizrahi, Kelly Jacobson and Patrick “Pac-Man” Stoker. Manager John Puklus and his coaches Steve Weinstock and Tim McAlevey did a great job of preparing these young athletes for the post-season tournament.
In the second game against Beverly Hills, Fitch threw three innings and gave up one hit. Puklus pitched for the first time this year and put in three innings of no-hit ball to record the save for Brooks. Turek and Brooks got two hits each and Mizrahi had a nice single and scored an important run. The team dominated the game and won easily, 8-0.
In game three, West Los Angeles took a 13-4 lead after the third inning. Eight Malibu runs crossed the plate in the fourth inning to make the score 13-12. Bell slashed a big triple to right. The inning was highlighted by an important hit from Mizrahi and a booming double by Turek. WLA scored two runs in the top of the fifth and took a lead of 15-12. With one at bat left, Berk started the inning with a monster double. Van Soelen drove Grady in with a solid single. Three batters in a row walked, then Weinstock drove in the tying run with a solid single to left, his third hit of the game. Puklus came up next with the winning run at third and hit a deep sacrifice fly to right that drove in the go-ahead run. Fitch added another single that drove in the final run to give Malibu a 17-15 lead.
With Malibu still batting and the sun having set, the umpires called time, conferred with the District supervisor and declared the game suspended. Because the inning wasn’t complete, it had to roll back to the previous inning and therefore WLA was declared the winner, 13-12. The announcer added, “But there has been a protest filed by the Malibu manager, and a ruling will have to be made through Williamsport, Pa. Please stand by while they make a phone call.”
It took 20 minutes, but the rule clearly states that if a home team has the lead in a game called on account of darkness, then it is the winner. Malibu was rightly declared the victors, 17-15. It was an amazing comeback and set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
Malibu’s next opponent was North Venice, a perennial powerhouse. Malibu pounded out 15 hits, with Fitch leading the way with three singles and a double. Berrios had a big double and Hale crunched a solid single into right center. Puklus, in his first start in 1998, threw five innings of no-hit ball. Malibu won 11-1.
The fifth game against Culver City National included pitchers who were not scheduled to pitch. Van Soelen pitched three great innings, then Weinstock pitched three innings and struck out five batters Malibu won 12-7, with Van Soelen, Brooks and Weinstock getting three hits apiece. Turek had four hits, including two tremendous doubles. Stoker had two important hits and Puklus, Turek and Van Soelen played a great game on defense. Berk made an important catch in center and the team was on a roll.
Game number six was against Playa Vista, and they were feeling pretty confident that they could send us back to the beach. Fitch, the starting pitcher, dominated them from the beginning. He threw three innings of no-hit, no-run ball and fielded his position like a pro. Turek pitched the last three innings and gave up two quiet runs. Berk led the hitting attack with a double and a single, and Van Soelen went two for two with two RBIs. Berrios, Fitch and Berk had two RBIs each, and Puklus had seven putouts at shortstop. The team won 10-2. The seventh game of the tournament was against Culver City Little League. Malibu sent Puklus to the mound. Again, he responded with a masterful performance, throwing four innings of two-hit ball, striking out six batters. Malibu was ahead 5-1 going into the fifth inning, but Culver City fought back to tie the game, 5-5. Stoker started a two-out rally in the fifth with a hard line drive single. Weinstock followed with a hit and Puklus walked to load the bases. Fitch stroked a hard liner into left and Malibu took a 7-5 lead. Culver City got its first two runners on base, but then Berk made a nice catch in center, Weinstock made a good stop at second and Van Soelen struck out the last batter to preserve a hard-fought 7-5 victory.
These two teams would now play one more game, the following day, for the championship of District 25.
Fitch took the mound with tremendous poise, not to mention his 60 mile an hour fastball, and dominated the Culvert City hitters, and hit the only home run of the 9-10 tournament, a two-run shot in the second inning. The top four hitters in the lineup — Weinstock, Puklus, Fitch and Turek – had three hits each. Jacobson had a nice double and scored a run. Stoker had a double, Berk had two hits. Mizrahi and Berrios had important hits, too. The team dominated Culver City 14-2 to win the championship.
The team effort was complete and Malibu had staged an amazing comeback to win seven straight games.