For the fourth-straight season the Briarwood Pirates will be sailing the seas of TOCs.
In what has seemingly become an annual tradition, the Pirates will once again represent Briarwood in Little League’s District 44 Tournament of Champions for the major division.
It was far from easy, though, in this year’s playoffs. The Pirates trailed 1-0 in the best-of-three championship series against the Mets but came from behind to steal the trophy treasure. Last Tuesday’s thrilling 7-6 walk-off victory in Game 2 set up a likewise exhilarating finish to Thursday’s winner-take-all Game 3. What started off as a pitcher’s duel between aces Jason Benson and Toby Esqueda, eventually morphed into a back-and-forth, see-saw battle.
The Pirates opened the scoring in the top of the third inning when Esqueda knocked home Sammy Martinez with a sacrifice fly. They would add a second run in the inning to go up 2-0. The Mets answered right back in the bottom of the third to take the lead by dropping a four spot.
Dylan Camacho and Braden Rosa reached base via free passes before Justin Forster drove them both in with an opposite-field triple to tie the game. Eddie Kirk followed with an RBI single to make it 3-2.
Now finding themselves trailing 4-2, the Pirates wasted no time answering right back. Kai Imahara led off the top of the fourth with a double to left-center field, and just a few batters later the score was tied 4-4. Esqueda then walked up to the dish having the bases loaded and only one out. The most feared hitter in the league would launch a double into right-center field, knocking in two runs and giving the Pirates a 6-4 lead.
“I thought he was going to throw me all curveballs, but second pitch was a fastball down the middle and I just put a good swing on it,” noted Esqueda. “Found a gap, scored two runs, it was big.”
The Pirates would add a seventh run in the fourth to go up 7-4 but would be held scoreless the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, the Mets kept clawing back. First baseman Colin Eldridge smoked a double to the left-field fence for an RBI in the fifth. With the score now 7-5, a super close call in the outfield on a soft line drive off the bat of Aristotle Valdellon was ruled the final out of the inning. However, it appeared as if the ball might have been trapped by the outfielder. The call could have easily been base hit, which would have made it a 7-6 game.
Despite the unlucky break, the Mets didn’t let it get them down. After a quick top of the sixth, the Mets got another rally going with their season on the line. Jesse Martinez launched a double to center field to leadoff the inning. Rosa followed by reaching on an error. With first and third, Martinez would score on a double steal to pull the Mets within one at 7-6. Unfortunately for Mets fans, neither Benson nor Forster — two of the team’s top hitters — would manage to get on base. Rosa, the potential tying run at third base would be left stranded as Pirates pitcher Andrew Traffas struck out the final batter of the inning to win the championship.