No-hitter propels Phillies to Malibu Little League Majors Championship

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The Phillies’ Quin Richards high fives Giancarlo Zappala while Trent Simonianprovides the championship-winning hug.

In a pitching performance worthy of a standing ovation, Giancarlo Zappala threw a no-hitter as the Phillies won their third consecutive “Majors” championship Saturday with a 6-0 victory against the Athletics on the final day of the Malibu Little League baseball season.

Following Zappala’s 15th strikeout of the game, the Phillies (19-1-1) rushed the field and dog-piled on top of each other. Moments later, Phillies coach Len Simonian broke out a bucket of Martinelli’s sparkling cider as the players and coach doused each other in jubilation.

“These guys did it. They had a great season. They worked hard and they played the game like gamers. They got it done all the way through the championship game,” said Simonian, who guided the Phillies to the “3-peat” and a record of 49-9-1 over the last three seasons. “Giancarlo is a tremendous pitcher and a great competitor. I’m glad we got him six runs and gave him some breathing room. He got it done again.”

Zappala, 12, threw a gem and a nearperfect game. In six innings of work, he allowed no hits, no runs and zero walks, striking out 15 of 19 batters he faced. The first Athletics player to lead off the game reached base courtesy of an error. Zappala then retired the next 18 batters in a row in a Roy Halladay-like masterpiece.

“It feels pretty good. I was kind of nervous at first but then I got used to it. My defense helped me out the whole game,” said Zappala, who ended the season with three playoff wins and 28 2/3 consecutive innings of zero runs allowed. “Everyone has been working really hard this year. Everyone has been helping each other become better players. It feels great to have a shutout especially in a championship.”

The Athletics (9-15) made a tremendous playoff run by winning three postseason games, losing only to the Phillies and Zappala in the double-elimination tournament.

Zappala was simply lights out in the playoffs as he threw three complete games allowing no runs, only one hit, striking out 41 batters and walking just six in 17 innings of work. Zappala also threw a no-hitter in the semifinals.

In addition to the 15 strikeouts, Zappala induced two ground ball outs and a fly ball to center where Landon Amaral made a diving catch in the second inning. Little did Amaral realize at the time that he saved a no-hitter with his spectacular grab in shallow centerfield.

“When the ball came I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to catch this. I stayed positive and I caught it,’” Amaral said. “At first I thought I didn’t catch it because my glove hit the ground really hard. But when I saw I had it, I felt so relieved. I was really happy and I held the ball up. It was so great.”

After scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning, the Phillies tacked on two more runs in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead. Spencer Regan tripled into the right field gap and scored on an Athletics error. Marcus Berns then walked, stole second and came home to score on Calvin Joyce’s RBI single to center.

Trent Simonian’s two-run double made it 6-0 in the bottom half of the fifth inning. Meanwhile, Zappala ended the game with seven straight strikeouts to punctuate a masterful feat.

Zappala’s battery mate, catcher Eric Truschke, caught the game of his young life. Zappala, who also pitched the Phillies to the title last year, and Truschke are two young prospects with bright futures ahead.

“Giancarlo is a great athlete. He throws strikes. He’s amazing,” Truschke said. “It’s my second year and it’s always so much fun in the playoffs. It is super fun to be with all your friends and playing.”

The Phillies posted three consecutive shutouts in the playoffs outscoring their opponents, 18-0.

“It means a lot to me because I like being a champion and I like winning,” Amaral said.

AAA

The White Sox won the AAA Minors Championship with a 15-7 victory over the Nationals last Sunday morning. Despite losing the opening game of the double-elimination tournament to the Nationals, the White Sox tallied five consecutive wins to fight off elimination, including a 7-4 victory Saturday against the Nationals before Sunday’s title triumph. With the victory, the White Sox (17-2-2) and the Majors Phillies advanced to the District 25 Tournament of Champions next week.

AA

The Tigers (14-5-1) won the AA Minors Championship with an 11-7 come-from-behind victory against the Giants. Trailing 3-0 early and down 7-6 in the fifth inning, the Tigers scored one run in the fifth to tie it at seven apiece and four runs in the sixth to take the title. The No. 1 seeded Tigers lost to the Giants in the quarterfinals and came back to beat the Giants on back-to-back days to win the championship.