Sunday’s “Summer Sizzler” Championship Game held at the Twin Creeks complex in Sunnyvale could not have got off to a better start for the Living Legends’ 18U Gray team.
Legends starting pitcher Sean Chang’s change-up and two-seam fastball were working together masterfully at the start. Chang stranded a two-out single in the first by striking out the side. In the following half inning the Legends’ lineup would drop a touchdown against their Mudhens opponent, a travel club out of Pleasanton. The seven-run frame for the Legends was highlighted by RBI doubles from Gilbert Murrillo, Matthew Maloney and Anthony Meza.
The Mudhens however immediately answered back with a three-run top of the second. They would add another run in the third to pull within 7-4. At that point Chang departed from the mound and Murrillo took over for the Legends. While Murrillo pitched a clean fourth inning, the Mudhens capped off a six-run, fifth-inning rally with a grand slam, taking a 10-7 lead into the sixth. The Legends cut the deficit to 10-8 in the bottom of the sixth, but the Mudhens would tack on four more in the seventh, eventually winning 14-9.
“Sean always has so much confidence, and that’s a big plus, he was able to fight through his last inning,” remarked Legends Head Coach Craig Maloney on his starting pitcher. “Gilbert came in and got that first inning and it looked like we might be in good shape, but you know it’s a really long day out here.”
Sunday’s championship game at 5 p.m. was the Legends’ third game that day, after winning a game at 8 a.m. and another that started just after noon.
“We tell them to stay out of the sun between games, find some air conditioning if you can, stay hydrated, things like that,” noted coach Maloney. “I tell them before games like this that what you do between games is going to make a lot of difference.
It certainly looked as if the Legends utilized the time between games wisely getting out to the 7-0 lead, but perhaps they got a little too comfortable with that cushion.
“We came out strong, but we definitely we’re leaning on that early lead,” admitted catcher Matthew Maloney. “We needed to keep going with the bats.”
“We definitely struggled at the very end, we all woke up at like six in the morning so we’re all really tired,” chimed right fielder Ethan Agbayani, who threw a complete game in the semifinal allowing just one run. “This last game we slowed down after their pitcher settled in and then we couldn’t get any more hits. Pitching wise we weren’t quite sharp, giving away some free runs.”
By the time Sunday’s championship game rolled around, the Legends had already played four games between Saturday and Sunday. Pitching is key when having to account for 30 innings of pitching in two days. The Legends nearly pulled off the tournament victory despite their top pitcher being unavailable for the weekend.
“Managing the pitching is always tricky when you have so many games in a condensed short period of time,” added coach Maloney. “In the first game yesterday I tried to give guys just an inning or so, try to keep their pitch count down in the 20-30 range. Try to keep it like a bullpen session. If you don’t get in the winning bracket and get a bye, it’s tough. Three games in one day and managing the pitching is a real challenge.”