Padres win the MLL’s majors division crown in extra innings 

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The Malibu Little League Padres celebrate after winning the majors division championship. The Padres edged the Dodgers 6-5 in nine innings to clinch the title. Photo by Dana Rubin.

Team edges the Dodgers as Phoenix Rhodes comes home with the winning run on a passed ball

Three extra innings were needed to decide the champions of the Malibu Little League’s majors division on June 4 at Bluffs Park, with the Padres beating the Dodgers 6-5. 

The deciding game was tied 3-3 after six innings of balls nailed into center field, strikeouts, and stolen bases. There was a flurry of scores in the seventh inning, but the score remained knotted. It was 5-5 after the eighth, but then in the ninth the Padres’ Phoenix Rhodes was on third base and eyeing home plate. 

“I’ve got to score no matter what,” he recalled thinking. “If that ball passes the catcher — I’m gone.”

The 11-year-old’s thought became reality on the diamond.

Phoenix zoomed to home plate to give his team a 6-5 lead when the Dodgers’ catcher mishandled a pitch.

The Padres’ defense prevented the Dodgers from getting on base in the bottom of the inning to secure the championship victory. 

Phoenix said he and his teammates can’t be overconfident, but winning the title made the season a great one.

“We have to have some excitement,” he said.

Padres manager Carlos Yniguez called winning the title an amazing accomplishment that the Padres worked hard for. He said being active in the batter’s box was the key to their triumph. 

“We knew coming into this game, we had to swing the bat,” he noted. “We got here an hour and a half before the game to have batting practice. We needed to hit the baseball today, and we hit the baseball.” 

During a celebration after the game with players and parents, the coach awarded pitchers Caleb Childress, who pitched until the seventh inning, and Mishen Al-Hardan, who pitched in the seventh and final two innings, with game balls due to their performances in the nine-inning contest. 

Caleb, Yniguez said, demonstrated leadership.

“He knew he had to throw strikes and knew his defense was behind him,” he said. 

Mishen throws a “heavy ball,” noted Yniguez. 

“When a batter hits it or it hits a batter, it hurts,” he said. “This guy throws gas.” 

The Padres’ victory was one of two MLL championships decided last weekend. The Phillies beat the Yankees to win the AAA division. That division is composed of kids ages 8 to 10. The majors division is made up of 11- and 12-year-olds.

In the majors contest, the Dodgers had a 3-1 lead over the Padres, highlighted by double hit by Asher Redclay that drove in two runs, after the first inning. 

Caleb stole home plate in the third to bring the Padres within one run. 

Luke Goldberg hit a double in the fifth that drove in Briggs Geraghty for the Padres’ third run.

Another hit by Luke in the first extra inning allowed Briggs to score again. Luke crossed home himself before the inning was over, putting the Padres up 5-3.

The Dodgers struck back in the same inning though. Sawyer Ebeling’s hit drove in Gianni Alfano. Then, Gianni stole home to tie the game. 

The Dodgers’ Noah Cadenas almost stole home in the eighth inning but was tagged out, as was his teammate Exton Downey on third base. 

Phoenix’s winning run was in next inning. 

Staging a comeback victory wasn’t a spine-tingling affair for the Padres, Yniguez said. 

“They had nerves pre-game, but once we got into the game a lot of those nerves went away,” he recalled. 

The extra inning-matchup completed a double-elimination playoffs in the majors division between the Dodgers, Yankees, and the Padres.

The Padres defeated the Dodgers a few days before the finale, but then on June 3, the Dodgers downed the Padres 2-1 in a pitching duel between the Dodgers’ Ryleigh Marlow and the Padres’ Briggs. Briggs struck out 13 batters in the contest. 

Ryleigh, who fanned his fair amount of batters from the mound, said the game was his best of the season.

“I just wanted to stay confident and not allow any runners on bases,” he said. 

Yniguez told the Padres to act like champions after the loss.

“When times get down and runs are scored on us, we have to remember who we are and remember how we practice and we have to make plays,” he said.