Arcadia, North Scottsdale take 1-0 series leads at Little League tournament

Mountain View's Danny Eden watching the pitcher during an at-bat at the District 6 Arizona Little League Tournament in Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

Mountain View’s Danny Eden watching the pitcher during an at-bat at the District 6 Arizona Little League Tournament in Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

Pool play is over in the Arizona District 6 Little League Baseball Tournament and the semifinals are now underway. On Monday, the one seed Arcadia and the two seed North Scottsdale each took 1-0 leads in their respective three-game series.

The semifinals are a whole new level of competition, as both Arcadia and North Scottsdale were challenged more than they had been in pool play.
McCormick Ranch, the four seed, and Mountain View, the three seed, are facing elimination on Tuesday night.

Semifinal 1, Game 1: Arcadia 14, McCormick Ranch 7

In four pool-play games combined, Arcadia allowed three runs. In the second inning of Monday’s game, they allowed five runs.

Arcadia entered the bottom of the second with a 4-0 lead thanks to wild pitches and runs batted in by right fielder Kellen Slade and shortstop Crew Edwards.

McCormick Ranch answered in the bottom of the inning as third baseman Cade Fretz and second baseman Mason Birkett advanced around the bases on wild pitches. First baseman Conner Endres picked up an RBI off of his ground-rule double that bounced over the right-field fence. Right fielder Cole Andrews and shortstop Spencer Thomas also picked up RBIs in the inning.

Arcadia responded to the 5-4 deficit by piling on four more runs in the top of the third. Two players reached base before back-to-back strikeouts. All four runs scored by Arcadia in the third inning came with two outs.

The most noteworthy activity was a three-run-inside-the-park home run by catcher Ryan Spier. Due to the errors that eventually scored him, the hit does not get officially scored. However, without the home run, Spier finished the game 2-2.

“I just made contact and had some balls go deep,” Ryan said of his successful night at the plate. “I met the barrel with the ball and it worked for me.”

Arcadia ended the third inning with 9-5 lead and added five more runs in the fourth inning to take a commanding 14-5 lead.

Ryan was proud of the way his team responded to the adversity it faced.

“We responded well. We had a big inning after that,” Ryan said. “The best teams, when they’re struggling, always come back strong.”

Arcadia manager Jeff Wasson echoed that sentiment.

“That’s the sign of a good team,” Mr. Wasson said. “That was a tough inning for us but the kids bounced back right away and that’s exactly what we were hoping for.”

Arcadia took game one by the score of 14-7, allowing more runs than it did in all of pool play. Mr. Wasson would like to see a defensive-minded game two.

“I preach pitching and defense,” Mr. Wasson said. “You can’t always rely on your bats. I want to rely on our pitching and defense … The runs are nice, but I like to see zeros up there on the other side.”

McCormick Ranch is the only team that has taken Arcadia to a full six-inning game, and it has now happened twice. The first time the teams met, Arcadia shut out the Bulls 5-0. The second time around, McCormick Ranch manager Todd Thomas liked the way the Bulls’ offense looked.

“We’re really pleased with our offense,” he said. “We had two big half-innings where we gave up a lot of runs. Both of them occurred with two outs and an error. If we get that third out in both of those innings — that’s a different game. Yes, we’re disappointed with the loss, but we’re looking forward to playing them (Tuesday).”

Semifinal 2, Game 1: North Scottsdale 6, Mountain View 5

Like Arcadia, North Scottsdale entered the semifinals with a wide margin of victory. Coming into Monday night’s game, the Rocketmen had allowed five runs in their previous four games. On Monday night, the tournament host matched the mark.

Mountain View's Brett Vodegel winding up before sending a pitch to home plate Monday night. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

Mountain View’s Brett Vodegel winding up before sending a pitch to home plate Monday night. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

“They’re a tough team,” North Scottsdale manager Paul Klotnia said of Mountain View. “They played us tough and we expect a battle. They showed up.”

The first and second innings saw silent bats and solid pitching, as both teams failed to put up a run.

In the top of the third inning, the Mountain View bats woke up as they scored four runs. Left fielder Rohan Gordan began the inning with a rocket of a grounder up the middle and eventually stole home after a throw went to second base attempting to pick-off a stealing runner, Brendan Flaherty.

Second baseman Kaleb Bouey, center fielder Max Weinmeister and starting pitcher Brett Vodegel all had hits in the inning. Brett had a 2-RBI single to left-center field that brought the lead to 4-0.

Facing its largest deficit of the tournament, it was North Scottsdale’s turn to respond in the bottom half of the third inning. Shortstop Cole Burleson began the inning by taking his base on balls and two batters later, right fielder Jackson Holmes advanced him to third when he hit a double to left field.

Second baseman Monty Gibson scored Cole with a grounder up the middle. Two batters later, first baseman Nolan Lopez scored Jackson and Monty with a double up the middle. Third baseman Matthew Graf batted in the last Rocketman run of the inning as his grounder up the middle scored Nolan.

North Scottsdale ace Ryan Klotnia entered the game to pitch in the fourth inning and although Mountain View reached base, they were unable to score. Max Weinmeister took a ball deep to left field that was caught for the third out of the half inning.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Mountain View left fielder Danny Eden came sprinting in to make a diving catch on a Cole Burleson fly ball to prevent Cole from reaching base.

Two batters later, North Scottsdale took the lead 6-4 when Jackson Holmes hit a two-run home run to straightaway center field.

“I think it helped us get the lead and made it harder for the other team to come back,” Jackson said of his home run.

Jackson finished the game 2-2 with a double, a home run and two RBIs.

Fast-forward to the top of the sixth inning, when Mountain View was taking its final at-bats. Rohan Gordan began the inning by taking his base on balls. He then stole second, third and home on wild pitches. The North Scottsdale lead was cut to 6-5.

After the second batter of the inning was also walked, Brendan Flaherty smacked a grounder to North Scottsdale shortstop Ryan Klotnia, who stepped on second base and rifled the ball to first for a double-play. The next Mountain View batter struck out swinging and the game was over.

North Scottsdale used five pitchers Monday night, but Mr. Klotnia says his team has plenty of pitching moving forward.

Mountain View manager Tim Flaherty was happy with the way his team played.

“I’m very proud of the way we played tonight,” Mr. Flaherty said. “That North Scottsdale team is a very good team. We gave them all they could handle tonight.”

When asked if they were expecting a tight game in the second game of the series, both Mr. Klotnia and Mr. Flaherty responded with the same one-word answer: “Absolutely.”

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