Phillies win Major Division of Malibu Little League playoffs


It was a performance for the ages. It had a “big league” moment that little leaguers across America can only dream about. It was an afternoon that William Tamkin won’t soon forget.

[An earlier version of this story misnamed William Tamkin as Michael Tamkin.]

When all the screaming and cheering from fans had settled down after a thrilling game on Saturday, the Phillies had outlasted the upstart Red Sox, 5-4, to win the major division of the Malibu Little League playoffs.

On a blustery day at the Malibu Bluffs, Tamkin had a two-run home run in the fourth inning and a walk-off RBI double to bring home the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning. He finished the game with four RBI. He was also the game-winning pitcher.

“I couldn’t believe I hit a home run,” Tamkin said of his first home run of the season in deep right center. “Now we get to go to T.O.C. (Tournament of Champions).”

If the ball had been hit to left center, it might have found its way into the nearby Pacific Ocean.

“He crushed that ball,” Phillies Coach Len Simonian said. “To hit the ball out is very impressive for an 11-year-old. And, of course, he had the game-winning walk-off hit, too.”

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Tamkin hit a towering two-run home run over the right center field fence to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead.

Phillies pitcher Tanner Gottlieb was in cruise control for much of the game after being asked to come in on a moment’s notice and take over for a shaky Biggie Murray in the first inning. Gottlieb was up to the task as he allowed no earned runs and only three hits in five innings of relief work.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Gottlieb said. “I definitely had butterflies in my stomach.”

The Red Sox (4-14), who finished in last place during the regular season only to play their best baseball in the playoffs, cut the deficit to 3-2 after the fifth inning.

The sixth inning began with Gottlieb retiring two of the first three batters he faced while walking a player. Due to a league rule on pitch count, Gottlieb was removed after 85 pitches and a runner on first base with two out.

A series of Phillies miscues that included two errors, two walks and a wild pitch resulted in a 4-3 Red Sox lead. Then with runners at first and second, Tamkin gave up a single to right field but a Red Sox player was thrown out at home plate to end the inning.

Down by a run in their last at bat, the Phillies (13-4) began the bottom of the sixth inning with three consecutive singles to tie the game at 4 apiece, the last of which was an RBI single by Gottlieb. That set the stage for Tamkin and his heroics.

With runners on first and second base, Tamkin connected on another deep fly ball to right field that fell in front of the fence for a double as teammate William Kish raced home with the winning run to give the Phillies the championship. And it made Tamkin the winning pitcher of record.

“It feels good when you win,” Tamkin said of the victory shortly after celebrating with his teammates by spraying Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider on each other.

“I told the boys before the game that they have a chance to do something that a lot of people don’t get to do,” Simonian said. “Go out there, soak it in, enjoy it and play like champions. They worked really hard this year. They got what they deserved. I’m happy for them.”

“It’s awesome,” Gottlieb added. “It’s definitely cool to be on a team that makes it this far. It’s just amazing.”

The major division consists of players 10, 11 and 12 years old. On this day, two 11-year-olds (Tamkin and Gottlieb) were the stars. But every little league player who participated played like a winner.

Across the field, the Red Sox were led by the valiant efforts of pitcher Quincy Allen and catcher Rocky Morris.

The Phillies were in first place the entire season from wire to wire. Now they take their talents into the District 25 playoffs at the Tournament of Champions beginning this weekend in Culver City and Marina del Rey.