The last day of the Malibu Little League season last weekend delivered lots of drama and great play by Malibu’s young ballplayers.
Sunday featured a title tilt between the Phillies and the Red Sox for the MLL Majors Hardball championship. The Red Sox had forced the deciding game after knocking off the defending champion Phillies the previous day, 5-2, behind a sparkling pitching performance from William Tamkin.
That set the stage on Sunday for Phillies’ Giancarlo Zappala and Red Sox ace Jake Hughes to face off on the mound for all the marbles. Zappala rose to the occasion and pitched a complete game, allowing only two runs on five hits. He did not walk a batter and had eight strikeouts as the Phillies defeated the Sox, 7-2, to win their second consecutive Majors Hardball championship.
It was Zappala’s third victory and second complete game of the playoffs, including a seven-inning no-hitter in the opening round.
“Giancarlo is a stud and he was the man today,” Phillies manager Len Simonian said. “He had a tough outing in his last game, but today, in the biggest game of them all, he gathered himself, stepped up and led his team to victory with an amazing pitching performance.”
The Phillies banged out 11 hits in the title game, including two each from Zapalla, Whitman Wachs and Lewis Baron. Wachs and Curtis Skakel contributed two RBIs apiece, while Alex Phillips, Baron and Zappala drove in the Phillies’ three other runs.
A year ago the Phillies edged the Red Sox, 5-4, for the title behind the talented play of William Tamkin. This year Tamkin was drafted by the Red Sox, and he didn’t disappoint anyone when he faced his former team in a must-win game on Saturday as the Sox attempted to force Sunday’s championship game.
Tamkin pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts and no walks. He finished the game with only 68 pitches. The Red Sox played a flawless game behind Tamkin with no errors.
“William was lights out,” Red Sox assistant coach Paul Peterson said. “He just threw strikes and was very efficient the whole game. He was in the zone and was just fantastic.”
The Red Sox (9-9) scored three runs in the first and never trailed in the game. They had seven hits; with the key hits being a two-run double by Hughes, an RBI double from Jonah Azoulay and an RBI triple by Talin Lewis. Tyler Rey did a strong job in relief for the Phillies, allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings.
The Phillies finished the season 16-4, winning both the MLL regular season title and the league championship, and have a combined record of 30-8 over their two consecutive championship seasons.
“I am extremely proud of every one of the kids on this team. This was the first year in Majors for nine of our 12 players,” Simonian said. “Every player on this team improved this season, and every player on this team made meaningful contributions to winning a title. These kids really earned it.”
Meanwhile, in the Minors Hardball championship tournament, the Dodgers came into their game against the Tigers sporting a perfect 16-0 record and trying to make it a perfect season. While the Dodgers had won the previous four games between the two teams, the Tigers (14-5) had plenty of firepower on their side.
The fifth matchup between the two best teams in league was exciting from start to finish. The Tigers came out roaring and took a 9-4 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning. The Dodgers responded by scoring four runs to cut the deficit to only one.
Drama filled the morning air in the bottom half of the sixth inning. With the tying run at third base for the Dodgers, Tiger pitcher Justin Lapinski struck out the side to preserve a 9-8 win. The result meant that the two teams would meet again this week to decide the champion. The game’s result happened after The Malibu Times went to press.
The Tigers players were overjoyed at the end of the game.
“I feel so great because we hadn’t beaten the Dodgers this year. I’m proud that we won,” Lapinski, eight, said. “I was just so happy I could have cried. It was the best season that I have ever had.”
“They were better than us today. That’s what it comes down to,” Dodgers manager Steve Prudholme said after the close 9-8 game. “This will build kids’ resolve. Today was our best against their best. We had beaten them four times this year and it was going to take a lot to beat them five. We will see them again. This is what it is all about. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Tigers manager Joe Lapinski said it was a great feeling for his kids to get over the hump against the talented Dodgers.
“The boys played with a lot of heart and courage,” Lapinski said. “I told them all year they could do it. I’m not sure if they always believed it but now they believe it. I’m just glad to be here in this position. The boys have come a long way.”