Matt Monroe could have let his nerves and frustration get the best of him.
After giving up a two-run homerun to Braden River Little League’s Jonathan Aragon in the top of the first inning of game two of the best-of-three championship series, it would have been understandable if the 11-year-old pitcher came unglued.
But rather than putting himself down, Monroe walked back to the mound and retired 13 of the next 19 batters before turning the ball over to Grant Weisman in relief with a three-run lead and two outs in the top of the sixth inning.
“It didn’t really get to my head,” Monroe said of the homerun. “I just let it go by my side because I didn’t want it to distract me.”
Monroe came within one out of pitching a complete game for Manatee East Little League’s 10- and 11-year-old All-Star team, but as luck would have, it the one player who started off the game for Manatee East was also the one who captured the final out and clinched the district championship as Manatee East defeated Braden River 8-5 in the Manatee County District 26 Little League All-Star Tournament July 16 at Braden River Park.
With runners on first and second, Braden River’s Jerry Cook hit a high pop-up down the first-base line. A patiently waiting Monroe caught the ball in foul territory for the game’s final out.
“I’m just having a great time, and I try to do my best throughout every game that we play,” said Monroe, a first-time all-star.
With the win, Manatee East capped off a perfect 8-0 all-star season during which it outscored its opponents 96-22.
“It took a good week for us to get our chemistry (together), but throughout the tournament, we’ve continually grown closer as a team,” Manatee East coach Doug Myers said. “Tonight was the first time all season we’ve been behind, and the kids showed a lot of character in coming back.”
After winning game one of the best-of-three series 4-3, Manatee East needed to win one more game to win the district title, while Braden River faced a must-win situation.
Braden River held a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the first inning, but Manatee East wasn’t discouraged by its early inning deficit. Instead, the team responded with a five-run inning of its own, which was sparked by 12-year-old Shane Zipperer’s three-run homerun.
“I was just trying to get a base hit or a double, but the pitcher threw a perfect pitch over the plate and I just tried to hit it hard,” Zipperer said. “It was my first one in all-stars and it gave us the lead, so I was just really excited.”
Manatee East extended its lead in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single by Zipperer. Trailing by four runs in the top of the fourth inning, Braden River’s Nick Runde sent a two-run shot to deep center field, cutting Manatee East’s lead in half.
Braden River added another run in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI single by pitcher Brock Younce, but in the end Braden River’s rally proved to be short lived as Manatee East’s defense prevailed.
Manatee East will look to continue its perfect season as it heads into the sectional tournament July 24 at the Manatee East Little League Complex in Lakewood Ranch. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
“I really think they can go as far as they want to,” Myers said. “They have the potential to go all the way. We have all the pieces in place — power, speed, ability to get base hits, pitching. … It’s been a struggle, but they’ve really come together as a team.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
11- and 12-year-old Recap
Braden River and Manatee East both came up short in 11- and 12-year-old All-Star action July 16. Braden River fell to Manatee American 9-3 and Manatee East fell to Manatee Central 6-3.
Manatee East rebounded with a 12-1 victory over Manatee American July 17, setting up a rematch with Manatee Central in the District 26 championship game July 18 at Braden River Park.
Manatee East won game one of the tournament’s double-elimination series 8-2 behind the arm of J.T. Fischer, who struck out more than half of the batters he faced. Fischer further helped his cause in the bottom of the first inning when he notched a single for Manatee East’s first hit of the game.
Tyler Dietrich followed up Fischer’s single with a two-run homerun to right field, giving Manatee East an early 2-0 lead.
With the win, Manatee East forced a decisive second game, which would determine the district champion. Manatee East (8-3) held the division’s best record throughout the tournament, but in the end Manatee East came up just short of the league’s third district championship of the tournament with a 5-4 loss to Manatee Central (8-2).
9- and 10-year-old Recap
The Manatee East Little League 9-and-10-year-old All-Star team saw its season come to a close in the sectional tournament July 17-18 at the Manatee East Little League Complex.
The District 26 champions fell 11-2 to New Tampa July 17 and 6-5 to Plant City July 18. The players played a final game just for fun against Bloomingdale July 18 in which they lost 14-5. Left fielder Will Robertson, center fielder Andrew Berg and shortstop Rhett Rampinelli each made outstanding defense plays for Manatee East throughout the tournament.
“We were a team of 13, and we preached everyone contributes to our team success — and they did,” Manatee East coach Ted Berg said. “The boys bonded well, supported each other, and contributed when their number was called.
After defeating Manatee Central 4-3 in game one of the best-of-three championship series, the Braden River Little League Junior All-Stars couldn’t find their rhythm in game two of the series.
Tyler Pogue struggled on the mound as Manatee Central’s first seven batters crossed home plate. Braden River gave up 11 runs in the bottom of the first inning as Manatee Central cruised to a 13-1 victory to even the series.
In a decisive game three, Manatee Central continued right where it left off, pounding Braden River at the plate in a 10-1 victory to win the District 26 Juniors Division Championship July 17.