In-the-park homers and stolen bases: Malibu Little League playoffs begin this Week

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Various Malibu Little League players pitch, hit, and celebrate during games on May 13. Photos by Devon Meyers/TMT.

League president praises parents and coaches: ‘Everyone is having a lot of fun’

All Malibu Little League baseball player Sawyer Ebeling thought was to run as hard as possible. 

Sawyer, who plays for the Dodgers, had just hit the ball deep into outfield late in his team’s contest against the Braves on May 13 at Bluffs Park.

“I wanted to make sure I didn’t get out,” Sawyer, 12, said. “I tried my best to get around all the bases to help my team score.” 

That he did. 

Sawyer rounded first base, then second base. There was no stopping him, so he advanced to third base, and then home plate to the cheers of his teammates. The inside-the-park home run was Sawyer’s second homer of the season and it added another run to the scoreboard in what ended up a 9-2 Dodgers victory. 

“I think this was either my best or second-best home run,” Sawyer stated. “It was right in the gap — a line drive.”

Moments like that, MLL President Nick Shurgot noted, are what the youth baseball league is all about. 

“The season has been a big success,” he explained. “There is a lot of good talent on each team; there is a lot of good depth.”

The Dodgers win over the Braves in the MLL’s major division— three teams composed of mostly kids ages 11 and 12 — was an action-packed game that featured strikeouts, stolen bases, and nicely caught pop-ups. Sawyer wasn’t the only Dodger to have an inside-the-park homer, either. His teammate, Asher Redclay, blasted a pitch into center field, and rounded all the bases for a score also. 

“My coach told me if I hit it into the outfield, I’m going all the way,” Asher, 11, noted. “I was thinking to just run as fast as I could.” 

The Dodgers’ first run of the contest came courtesy of Ryleigh Marlow stealing home plate. Asher then hit an RBI double to score Noah Cadenas. The scoring remained constant for the rest of the game. 

Greg Belzberg, a Dodgers’ parent and coach, said the team played great.

“Our guys were sharp today,” he said. “They came out early. Everybody was on in warmups.” 

While the Dodgers and Braves faced off, teams such as the Phillies, Pirates, and another Dodgers bunch competed on the parks’ two other diamonds in front of their families and friends. 

The youth league’s player enrollment numbers have grown from around 110 kids at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic to 280 this season. The kids play in one of six divisions — T-ball, AA, AAA, majors, juniors, and softball. Softball and T-ball have the most players, said Shurgot. 

“Six teams and each team has 15 kids bursting at the seams,” he said of the league’s T-ball division, composed of majority of kids ages 4 and 5.

Shurgot credited the MLL’s board and parents for the increased participation, and coaches for ensuring the youth have an enjoyable time on the diamond.

“Everyone is having a lot of fun,” he said. “We have a lot of managers promoting the kids having fun. Everyone has embraced that.” 

The MLL season began in March. The double-elimination playoffs began this week.

In the AAA division, composed of kids ages 8 to 10, the Yankees played the Angels on May 16, and the Dodgers played the Phillies on May 17. The winner of the Yankees and Angels will play the Padres on May 20. There will be games on May 23, 24 and 31. The championship game will be on June 3. 

In the majors division, the Yankees and Dodgers will play on May 20. The winner will face the Padres on May 24. There will be a contest on June 3. The title game is June 4. 

The Dodgers’ Sawyer is confident his team can advance to the championship game. 

“We just have to come in — not cocky — but with confidence,” he said. “Not swinging at bad pitches, not sloppy infielding or outfielding.”

The MLL will host the California District 25 Baseball 11U All-Star Tournament at Bluffs Park beginning on June 26. The multi-day competition will feature an all-star squad from Malibu and other leagues including Beverly Hills Little League, Culver City Little League, Culver Marina Youth Baseball Little League, Ladera Little League, North Venice Little League, Santa Monica Little League, University Little League, and West Los Angeles Little League. 

Malibu’s 11U team placed third in the tournament last summer. Malibu’s 10U team finished fourth in their tournament. 

Both teams, Shurgot noted, want to play well next month.

“We have some really strong all-star teams,” he said. “It will be pretty legit. We want a lot of people to come out and cheer on the Malibu team.”