The Briarwood Pirates to set sail, once again, into the seas of TOCs. For the third consecutive season, the Pirates are the Major Division Champions of Briarwood Little League.
In fitting Pirates fashion, this year’s squad had to snatch the Championship victory from the jaws of defeat. In Saturday’s decisive Game 3, they would overcome a 3-1 deficit with a three-run fifth, defeating their rival White Sox, 4-3, in the best-of-three series.
Leading off the rally in the bottom of the fifth was leadoff hitter Saya Fujii. The Pirates’ catcher laced a line drive into left-center field and used her speed to fly into third base for a stand-up triple. When the next two batters each struck out, it looked as if the rally would fall short before it even started. However, after an intentional walk to Pirates’ starting pitcher Noah Pang, White Sox starting pitcher Jared Cabildo reached his pitch count limit and had to be lifted from the mound.
Facing a new pitcher with runners at the corners, Mateo Escobedo would knock a solid single into center field. Fujii would trot home to score, cutting the deficit to 3-2. The following batter Toby Esqueda would launch a double into the right-center field gap, knocking home both runners and giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead.
“I think it was a 2-0 count and I got a high and outside pitch,” recalled Esqueda on his clutch double. “I was really excited, I saw that both runs had scored as I reached second base.”
It was a big moment for the Pirates as a couple of errors had helped the White Sox get out to that 3-1 advantage.
“We’ve always preached to the kids that you got let go of your errors and move forward,” said Pirates Manager Jermaine Mitchell. “In the game of baseball, the ball is going to bounce different ways and you’re going to get put in situations where you need to step up big and [Toby] did that today. He shook off the earlier errors and came up big for us, his focus wasn’t on his past errors, he was just focused on getting the job done at the plate.”
In the top of the sixth inning, Pang would strike out one more batter before reaching his pitch count limit. Esqueda would take over on the mound to earn the clutch two-out save to go along with his clutch two-run double.
While the post-game elation on the Pirates side was palpable, the emotions were just as strong on the other side. Cabildo did everything he could on the mound and at the plate for the White Sox. It was Cabildo in the cleanup spot and Matthew Tiendas in the three hole who provided the majority of the offense for the White Sox. Cabildo went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Tiendas went 2-for-2 with a walk.
“Jared is awesome, I love him,” remarked a tearful Tiendas. “We should have won this game and Jared should have been the winning pitcher.”
“Jared pitched very well, we had [the Pirates] right where we wanted them, but then his pitch count got up,” remarked White Sox manager Gilbert Tiendas. “We had to make a decision there since they had their best batter at the plate. Looking back maybe we should have had [Jared] challenge him.”
Rather than challenging Pang, the White Sox intentionally walked him for the second time in the game. The walk put Cabildo over the pitch count limit. Had he been given the chance to continue pitching, Cabildo would have had the opportunity to throw as many pitches as needed to try and retire Pang to end the inning. Instead, the White Sox were forced to make the pitching change.