What’s the key to success in a Little League all-star game?
“Really belting it out, hopefully,” said nine-year-old Jared Regan after the major league all-stars finished their game.
Jared spoke from the perch of a first-time announcer, having just finished up all-star broadcasting duties with his twin brother Jeremy (who declared that the two had done an “awesome” job), but his words reflected the aspirations of every Little Leaguer who stepped up to the plate Sunday afternoon.
With a stream of formidable pitchers taking the mound for the American and National League teams, however, out-of-the park blasts were out of the question. Instead, players in both the major and minor league games relied on solid, small ball work — drawing walks, laying down bunts and stealing enough bases to make Carl Crawford envious — to get the job done.
Jacob Cardoza kicked off the scoring for the National League in the first inning, knocking out an RBI triple to send Jonas Lukowitz home. Chris Mayhew held the American League bats scoreless in the remainder of the inning, setting the stage for the NL to go ahead 2-0 in the second as Nick Vukota came home on a wild pitch. The inning ended with a strikeout by American League pitcher Cam Maciel.
Nick’s steal would be the last run scored for either team until the final inning of the game; as the third inning began it became more apparent that this game was truly a defensive battle. Mitchell Chaves turned in a standout performance on the mound for the American League in the third, while fellow pitcher Nainoa Cooperrider fought off a potential scoring blitz in the fourth, shutting down the NL after they had loaded the bases. Attempts by the AL to get things started in the bottom of the inning were thwarted by NL centerfielder Zachary Danz.
The fifth inning was highlighted by stellar defensive work by National League first baseman Joe Davies.
As the final inning began, Aksel Cooperrider took the mound for the American League, cheered on by a contingent of West Tisbury fans in the stands. At the broadcast table, the Regan brothers, both of whom play for the Red Sox, finally let their AL loyalties shine through.
“Last half of the sixth inning . . . the National League leads 2-0, still. Still.”
But after a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race move around the bases by Graham Lewis, who singled, stole second and third, and finally made it to home plate, the AL was within one run. Avery Miner drew a walk to get the tying run on base. With two outs, Nainoa Coopperrider launched a long drive down the first baseline that went foul at the last minute.
NL pitcher Jonas Lukowitz then got the final out to preserve his team’s win.
The AL roster was made up of Mitchell Chaves, Jeffrey Cimeno, Aksel Cooperrider, Nainoa Cooperrider, Nick Fiore, Noah Hoyt, Mercer Kelly, Graham Lewis, Cam Maciel, Avery Miner, John Morris, and James Sashin. Representing the National League were Aiden Aliberti, Tristan Araujo, Sam Bresnick, Jacob Cardoza, Zachary Danz, Joe Davies, Curtis Fournier, Jonas Lukowitz, Chris Mayhew, Louis Neville, Jack Reagan and Nick Vukota.
In stark contrast to the major league game, the minors game was a battle of the bats. The American League jumped to an early lead, with the NL hitters working away to close the gap throughout the game. The game ended 16-7 in favor of the American League.
But the point of an all-star game is to allow the players to shine without focusing on the score, and the minor leaguers exemplified this aim. Whether following up a two-run single with a steal of second (Anthony Cimeno), scraping a double out of what should have been a single (Peter Burke), turning a double play (Scotty Lively) or simply batting safely against a tough pitcher (Andrew Marchand), the details on the field overshadowed the dots on the scoreboard.
While most of the major leaguer players had participated in at least one all-star game prior to Sunday’s matchup, the minor leaguers were, by and large, taking the field for the first time. First-timers and old-timers alike agreed on the perks of the game, which included trying out new positions on the field and the simple act of watching how other players handled their roles.
The biggest perk, however, is the chance to play with friends on other teams, according to Joe Davies of the National League (major).
Harold Lawry, a first-time minor league player representing the Rockies, supported this idea, as he pointed to his “bestest friend,” fellow National Leaguer and Reds player Ryan Scanlon.
And for others, like minor leaguer Kenny Hatt, making new friends was just as good as seeing old ones.
Minor league players for the American League were Keaton Aliberti, Richie Bartlett, Benny Bunker, Summer Cardoza, Patrick Dutton, Andrew Marchand, Bryce Nightlinger, Davis Packer, Auguste Pizzano, Owen Porterfield, Joe Serpa, and Gabriel Shriver. National League players were Garrett Broadley, Will Bruguiere, Peter Burke, Anthony Cimeno, Baylee Francis, Kenny Hatt, Scotty Lively, Michael O’Brien, Otto Osmon, Ben Peters, Talon Rusillo, and Ryan Scanlon.