Edwin Murray, their coach, said the Braves put their disappointment aside and just kept practicing until they obtained the perfect ending to this season — the Little League Major Division championship by defeating the Tigers, 6-5 and 28-0.
Murray said the Braves had to overcome adversity first in the tournament, as that same Tigers team earlier relegated them to the losers division with a 10-6 defeat. They earned their rematch by defeating the Indians, 13-6, positioning them to win the title if they could defeat the Tigers two more times on May 28.
The coach said that first game was an exciting 6-5 duel between two teams playing at the top of their games, swapping the lead late. In the second Braves vs. Tigers matchup, the Braves scored nine runs in the first inning and didn’t let up the rest of the way.
Braves 6, Tigers 5
He said the two 12-and-under teams both came to play in the first game, and the Braves took an early lead in the second inning to start off on the right foot.
Hunter Campbell paved the way for the first score by singling his way on base, then stealing second. A single by Jesse Grogan sent Campbell to third where a fielder’s choice by Eoin Neal sent the third-base runner home and put the Braves up, 1-0.
The Braves added to that in the third after Austin Baker got on first, stole second and then third base. Baker went home on a wild pitch and his team was up, 2-0.
The Tigers answered in the fourth when Josh Quinney reached on an error. Brandy Craig singled to send Quinney to third. Craig moved to second. Jacob Desmond singled Quinney and Craig home to knot the teams at 2-2.
The Braves responded in the bottom of the frame as Trey Holstein drew a walk. Logan Martin hit an RBI double to score Holstein and the Braves retook the lead at 3-2.
In the top of the fifth, the Tigers’ Micah Tart reached base with a hit and Brady Evans then smacked a two-run homer for a 4-3 Tiger lead.
The Braves answered yet again in the bottom of the fifth when Preston Welchel was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a wild pitch. Riley Collier got on first and Welchel went to third. Grogan drew a walk to load the bases. Jaqualan Mayhall drove in Welchel and Collier and the Braves led, 5-4. Grogan went home on a wild pitch and the Braves moved out to a 6-4 lead.
In the top of the sixth, Desmond led off with a single and later scored, closing out scoring with the Braves up, 6-5. The Tigers grounded out to the pitcher to end the game.
Braves 28, Tigers 0
The Braves overpowered the Tigers in their second game. The Tigers were held in check by Braves’ pitcher Trey Holstein.
“He pitched a complete game shutout for us,” Murray said of Holstein. “Offensively, Logan Martin and Preston Welchel had home runs.”
He said the Braves got off to such a big start — scoring nine runs in first inning — the Tigers were unable to recover.
Murray said the Braves enjoyed their success this year, but they had to improve over several years to reach this level.
“Three years ago, we didn’t win a game,” he recalled. “Last year, we finished in the middle of the pack. This year we won the championship.”
He said the key to their success was how they played.
“They played very much as a team,” Murray said. “It takes a team effort to win these things. It was not one person. It was a complete team victory, including our substitutes, who made a big impact during the tournament.”
He said their attitude at practices helped, too. “We had good practices and that makes your team click together.”
Murray said the team grew and came together.
“Most of these kids have been on this team three years, and they’ve worked hard to get where they are,” he said. “I’d also like to give a shoutout to [assistant coach] Al Holstein for all his great work.”