Over the final three innings, McDonald’s reliever Carlos Madrigal was cool under pressure.
Madrigal tossed three scoreless frames of no-hit ball with two walks and eight strikeouts, including the 3-4-5 hitters of the Spooky’s Pizza batting order, to give McDonald’s a come-from-behind 7-6 win in Saturday’s minors championship.
“Carlos was on my team last year, and I knew I wanted him back. He always had a good attitude, and he always shows up,” McDonald’s manager Craig Gunderson said. “I knew he was going to come up huge for us all year. That’s why I had him out there at the end of the game, because he is just steady, and he came up huge for us tonight. He deserves the awards he got, and he is definitely the MVP of our team.”
Spooky’s Pizza led 2-1 after two innings and tacked four more runs in the third frame to make it 6-1, capped by a bases-clearing three-run triple off the bat of Jalen Dale, which chased home Hector Flores, Hunter Lacock and Sawyer Case.
McDonald’s scored three runs in the third on four walks and two errors for a 6-4 deficit, with Joseph Moore, Emmett Gunderson and Camden Dooley scoring.
In the home half of the fourth, Michael Macroni crossed the plate on a wild pitch, and both Jack Dewey and Nick Hammond each scored on an error.
“I felt like we always had a chance,” Dooley said. “We needed to stay focused and keep it up. Our pitcher kept getting three up and three outs, so we were close. We got the hits and came back, and I am excited that my team could do it.”
Once McDonald’s regained the lead, Madrigal faced a little trouble in the fifth, as he escaped a second and third with two-out jam by striking out the Spooky’s No. 2 hitter.
He then fanned Case, Dale and Cummins in the sixth inning to cement the win.
“It was a fun game,” Madrigal said. “I told myself to stay focused and stay strong. I am so happy. It is really exciting to help my team win this game.”
Cates and Lacock each went 1 for 3 with a run; Case was hit by a pitch and scored; Harley beaver added a hit, a walk and a run, and Flores was hit by a pitch, walked and scored.
Spooky’s left five runners on base, two in the second inning, one at third in the third frame and runners at second and third in the fifth.
“I thought the kids battled and played well,” Spooky’s manager Corey Case said. “It was a close game for the first two innings. We jumped up and got a larger lead, but they kept chipping away at it. Our kids stayed positive and kept battling. We just came up short today.”
Overall, McDonald’s had two hits and received nine walks and had a hit batter account for its offense.
Hammond was 1 for 2 with a double and a run scored, while Thatcher Dray added a hit, a walk, a stolen base and an RBI.
Dooley was hit by a pitch, walked, stole a base and scored a run, and Macroni, Connor Joseph, Dewey and Moore were walked and scored a run apiece.
This marked the first championship for coach Gunderson in his first year in the little league program.
The reach of athletics spans further than just the games, however.
“There’s so many future life lessons to playing sports, but having respect for one another, respect for the game and handling things well when things don’t go your way are important things they can take away from this experience,” coach Gunderson said. “I didn’t see anyone upset or mad; I saw a team that let that fire burn inside to where they wanted to come out and get it done next time. That was great, and not having to deal with any poor sportsmanship moments was probably my highlight as a coach.”
A handful of these kids were on the team that finished second last year, so Case has seen the core of this group go through one-run losses in title contests in each season.
“They are tough losses, but they will be better for it,” coach Case said. “Baseball is a mental sport. We have players that are maturing and learning the game, so they are starting to get it. I feel that bodes well for these kids in the future.”