NAPA — It was Orange Saturday at the Napa Little League fields.
Sammy Meadows had 12 strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings and C.J. Laui belted a solo home run, Saturday, as the orange-shirted Fairfield Pacific Little League Giants capped a 25-0 season by downing the black-topped Cordelia/Tri-Valley Giants 5-3 to win the District 53 Majors Division Tournament of Champions title.
Meadows was dominant from the start, striking out the side in the first, third and fourth innings.
He was around the strike zone so much two of three hits against him were home runs, a solo shot by Cyere Randle in the top of the second, and a two-run blast by Stevie Johnston on Meadows’ 87th – and final – pitch of the game in the fifth.
“That was just Sammy being Sammy all year,” Pacific manager Chris Gabbart said. “He comes in and throws hard. Today he wasn’t throwing a lot of wrinkles (curveballs). He had it going.”
Tri-Valley manager Steve Johnston agreed.
“He was mixing it up well,” Johnston said. “He mixed his fastball and curveball really well. I was telling the kids to look for the curveball because he fell in love with the curveball. By then it was the fifth inning.”
For Meadows, the game plan was simple: “Just throw strikes and let the defense do the work,” he said, though errors were made on the two balls put in play in the top of the first.
By the time he took the mound for the top of the second, Meadows had a three-run lead that must have seemed like 30.
Cameron Martin led off the bottom of the first with a walk, took second on a one-out single by Carlvessi Light and scored on a ground single up the middle by Laui as Light took third.
Light was the caught in a rundown between third and home and was tagged by Stevie Johnston, who was covering the plate, but the ball came free and Pacific had a 2-0 lead.
Phillip Medeiros, pinch-running for Laui, score the third run of the inning when Robert Gabbart’s one-hop smash bounced off the glove of the shortstop Ben Trette.
“I think (the early lead) probably settled them in a little bit,” Chris Gabbart said. “I think it settled Sammy in a little bit. We’ve done that a lot. We’re a strike-first, first-strike offense.”
Tri-Valley got one of the runs back when Randle hit a towering shot well over the left field fence on the first pitch of the second inning.
Meadows then surrendered his only free pass of the game, walking William Laffey. He gave up a single to Trette after two strikeouts, but got out of the inning with a force at second.
Pacific responded with a run in the bottom of the second, Martin blasting a one-out double down the left field line, taking third on a wild pitch and scoring on Light’s line drive single up the middle.
Laui added a key insurance run the bottom of the fourth with a booming drive over the left field fence that left the yard in a hurry.
Pacific refused to go away, however. After Meadows started the top of the fifth off with a strikeout, Trette hit an infield single and Steve Johnston hit a home run to left, similar to Randle’s, though more suspenseful because it barely cleared the fence.
“We kept fighting. We made two comebacks, the first and second games in the tournament,” Steve Johnston said. “We were behind both games and fought back. We’re 15-10-1 and they’re 25-0. We’re the little guys who kept fighting. We love to fight.”
Angad Takhar appeared to keep the rally going against reliever Mathew Miranda, but Martin made a shoe-string catch of his line drive to center.
Max Wilson followed with a single, but Miranda got Miguel DeLeon to ground out unassisted to Meadows, now playing first base.
Miranda yielded a two-out single to Jarod Sloan in the top of the sixth, but the 12-pitch inning with a strikeout.
“Matt’s probably the most efficient pitcher in the history of Little League,” Chris Gabbart said. “Over the season he probably averaged nine pitches per inning.”
The Pacific manager pointed out that many of the players came up together as 9- and 10-year-olds and have become a “band of brothers” over the years.
“They play for each other,” he said.
And won a lot of games in the process.
Meadows said Saturday’s victory felt “good” because “we went undefeated through the whole season.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.