The Briarwood Pirates began their journey through the Tournament of Champions on Tuesday, June 12 with a come-from-behind, 6-3 win over Campbell. Two days later, star pitcher Noah Pang threw a dazzling 5 and 1/3 innings in a 2-0 win. Pang struck out 15 of the 16 outs he recorded.
On Saturday, the Pirates kept on tacking on runs in a game where they needed almost all of them. They went up 5-0, 7-2 and 9-5, before holding on to win 9-7 over Sunnyvale.
Those three wins set the table for a championship game against the Mountain View Pirates this past Monday, June 18.
Unfortunately for Briarwood fans, their Pirates would have to settle for the second place treasure after falling to Mountain View, 7-1.
“This is a special group, this team right here, I have big emotions for this team,” said Briarwood Manager Jermaine Mitchell on his squad’s overall performance this season. “This team was doubted from the jump, but the draft went exactly the way I wanted. We were small, but we had a lot of heart, high IQ baseball players and a lot of team speed.”
The typical cliche is “wise beyond one’s years,” but for Pang, the thought that comes to mind is that he is charismatic beyond his years. Despite the loss Monday, the 12-year-old was proud of his team’s strong finish to the season.
“I think we did really well this season,” said Pang. “This is the only team I have ever been on that started out slow, yet finished the season on top. We were able to come back from 1-6 at the beginning of the season to finish 13-13. And this was the farthest we have gone in TOCs.”
One of the biggest keys to the Pirates’ success this season was leadoff hitter Saya Fujii. Despite being smaller in stature than many of her teammates, there was arguably no player more valuable than Fujii. Playing against the boys, she dominated offensively from both sides of the plate, and contributed defensively as a catcher, pitcher and infielder.
“This is the first time I’ve been on a first place team and competing in TOCs,” remarked Fujii. “It’s really great because we got to come back from a slow start. We never gave up. A lot of games we came back from an early deficit, so we learned that we could come back in any game.”
While Fujii and Pang were two of the most notable standouts for the Pirates, the overall depth to the pitching staff was also a huge reason for their success. Along with Fujii and Pang, Mateo Escobedo, Tyson Mitchell and Toby Esqueda all contributed quality innings on the mound. A five-deep rotation is incredibly rare for Little League teams. Usually at this level a team has two or three trustworthy pitchers at most.
Even though the Pirates season is over, all five of the Pirates’ pitchers will now join the rest of the Briarwood All Stars.