EAST COUNTY — The final two-out sequence of the Minors Division Little League All-Star Championship game between Manatee East and Manatee American couldn’t have played out any better.
Only the game-winning double play didn’t happen by design. It wasn’t something Manatee East had been practicing for the past three weeks. Rather it was simply three players — Andrew Berg, Rhett Rampinelli and Colin May — being in the right place at the right time and understanding the game of baseball.
Clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, Manatee East found itself just three outs away from winning the district title and completing a perfect season. But Manatee American wasn’t quite ready to concede the championship.
After their leadoff batter went down on strikes, Manatee American responded with three straight hits, cutting Manatee East’s lead to one with runners on second and third. The scenario could have spelled disaster for Manatee East as Manatee American’s cleanup hitter, Garrett Richelieu, stepped to the plate, dug in and hit a deep fly ball to center field.
But Berg was waiting. The 11-year-old center fielder caught the ball and quickly relayed it back into Rampinelli, who was playing shortstop. Without a moment’s hesitation, Rampinelli turned and threw the ball to May who was waiting at home plate.
May tagged out Manatee American’s Collin Moore, who was attempting to score from third base, for the game’s final out to preserve Manatee East’s 6-5 victory over Manatee American in the Manatee County District 26 Little League All-Star Tournament July 10.
“It’s heads-up play,” Manatee East coach Ted Berg said. “It’s the kids understanding and knowing the game. They always play good fundamental baseball, and it was just a great season.”
As soon as the final out was made, a triumphant May thrust his fists in the air and ran out to the pitcher’s mound to join his teammates in celebration.
“I couldn’t believe it,” May said. “It’s awesome. We never lost. Whenever we’ve been down, we’ve fought back every game we’ve played.”
But perhaps no one was more pleased with the way the final play unfolded than Andrew Berg, who was able to redeem himself from an earlier inning miscue. With two men on in the bottom of the first inning, a deep fly ball sailed past a diving Andrew Berg and into center field. The double gave Manatee American an early 1-0 lead.
So when the ball came toward him a second time with the game on the line, Andrew Berg knew he couldn’t make the same mistake twice.
“I just thought ‘I better not drop this one,’” Andrew Berg said. “If I didn’t make that catch, then we would’ve lost the game. Earlier in the game, I tried to make a diving catch and the ball went by me, but I got another chance and I saved the game.”
Manatee East took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second inning when Garrett Kelly laid down a perfect bunt in front of home plate to score Tyler Weott and Andrew Berg. Trailing by two runs in the top of the fifth inning, Manatee East took a 5-4 lead as May, Will
Robertson and Austin Keefer all crossed home plate. Manatee East added its final run in the top of the sixth inning on a double by May.
“This team always has a positive attitude and they can get out of every situation,” Ted Berg said. “They’re not cocky by any means, but they no how to win.”
Manatee East finished a perfect 9-0 in the all-star tournament. The team scored 82 runs throughout the tournament while posting two double-digit victories and one shutout.
“We’re all good,” Rampinelli said. “We’re 9-0, so obviously we play well together. We’re 13, and 13 is our special number. Everyone does their part on this team.”
Manatee East will look to extend its perfect season in the opening round of the sectional tournament July 17.
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
Little League Scoreboard July 7 to 13
Manatee East 10, North River National 9
Braden River 12, Manatee American 2
Manatee East 20, North River National 2
Manatee East 8, Manatee Central 4
Braden River 15, North River American 5
Braden River 7, Manatee East 6
Braden River 19, North River National 0
Manatee East 15, Manatee American 5
Manatee East 20, North River American 1
Manatee West 7, Manatee East 1
Braden River 11, North River National 10
Manatee East 6, Braden River 0
Braden River 6, Manatee East 4
Manatee East 12, North River National 6
Manatee West 6, Braden River 0
Braden River 12, Manatee American 7
Manatee East 18, North River National 2
Braden River 19, Manatee National 0
Manatee East 11, Manatee American 2
Braden River 4, Manatee East 2
Manatee East 11, Manatee American 4
Braden River 15, North River National 0
North River National 8, Braden River 5
North River National 6, Braden River 5
Manatee West 12, Manatee East 1
Manatee East 14, Braden River 1
Manatee East 27, North River National 0
Manatee Central 7, Braden River 6
Manatee East 7, North River National 4
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