Pitchers’ duels ruled the day in the two Little League Championship games at Veira Park on Saturday afternoon.The league-leading Cubs picked up their second title in a row with a 2-1 win over the second-place Pirates in the Majors game, while the Marlins won 3-1 over the Reds in the Minor League contest.
Early threats of thunderstorms faded into cloudless blue skies as Cubs ace Aidan Aliberti took the mound for his first of four 1-2-3 innings to start things off. With Pirates pitcher Jack Sierputoski holding off the Cubs offense, teammate Curtis Fournier touched Aidan for a deep home run in the second inning to put his team on the board 1-0 early.
But the Cubs could not be held back for long, as Dillon McAndrews drew a walk in the third, setting the scene for Aiden’s textbook rip for a triple down the first base line scoring Dillon from first. Aidan then raced home for the winning run on a wild pitch during Jacob Gundersen’s at-bat. Although Lucas deBettencourt singled to reach first base, Jack struck out Zachary Moreis to end the inning. He would notch a 1-2-3 performance of his own in the fourth to continue the defensive battle.
The Pirates defense turned in strong play throughout, with outfielders Walter Greene—showing no signs, save a wrist brace, that this was his second game back from a broken arm—and Grant Pertile making standout snags in the third and fifth. Owen Bresnick made an excellent infield catch in the third.
The Cubs loaded the bases to no avail in the fifth inning, with Dillon drawing another walk and Aidan singling before Jacob Gundersen reached first on a walk. Pirates closer Curtis Fournier worked himself out of the jam with help from Sam Bresnick to end the inning, but the two third-inning runs proved the only ones the Cubs would need. Aidan allowed just one other hit in the game, an infield single to Riley Amaral in the top of the sixth.
The win marked the first-ever back-to-back title for a Vineyard Little League team in over a decade, Cubs coach and Little League president Andrew Aliberti said after the game.
Making their second consecutive appearance in a title game, the second-place Marlins at last brought home a trophy of their own in the Minor League matchup later in the afternoon. Last season, the team fell to the Twins 8-1. The fifth-place Reds, meanwhile, had gone on an end-of-season tear to power through the playoffs and into the championship.
But this year there was neither runaway win nor power hitting, as the Marlins and Reds each trotted out a formidable pitching staff to keep the bats relatively quiet. Aidan Smith and Morgan Estrella teamed up for the Reds, while Finn Lewis, Baylee Francis and Nick Cranston took the mound for the Marlins.
Baylee hit an RBI double in the bottom of the first to score Matt Pouliot; Matt Moore gave the Marlins a 2-0 cushion in the third as he ran home on a Nick Cranston single. Nick stole two bases after reaching first, but Aidan Smith got out of the inning before another run could be had.
The Marlins’ defense was on display in the fourth, much to the admiration of fellow Little Leaguers on the sidelines.
“I’m surprised that wasn’t a double play!” a Red Sox player whispered from behind the fence. “They did it just as well as anybody in the Majors.”
Matching the defense was more strong baserunning, this time on the part of the Reds, as Kyle Rollins reached third on a steal.
In the fourth, Baylee led off with a single for the Marlins; Henry Warner smashed a single of his own for an RBI to give the team a 3-0 lead. Morgan made a perfect flip to firs to end the inning. The Reds got on the board in the next inning when Lukas Fenske’s right-field drive scored Jack O’Brien, but the Marlins held on for the win, proudly raising their shining trophies aloft as they posed for photos.
“This is bigger than last year’s,” one player said.
The Little League travel season begins today, as the 11-year-old squad plays Old Rochester at 5 p.m. at Veira Park. The 12-year-olds, renewing their quest for a Little League World Series berth, are at Veira Park Wednesday at 5 p.m. They play the winner of Barnstable/Bridgewater.