Arcadia American Little League Navy baseball team used the potent combination of power pitching and power hitting to sweep four District 17 opponents and give AALL the championship of the annual Fall Ball Tournament at Sierra Madre’s Heasley Field for the second straight year.
AALL squandered an early 6-1 lead Tuesday night but regained its momentum to defeat the Sierra Madre Brewers, 11-6, in the title game. Kyle Lin was the surprise winner in relief and Julian Eskridge pitched two scoreless innings to earn his fourth save, striking out four. Devon Eskridge had three hits and two RBIs, and Guy Gruppie, Jr. two hits and two RBIs to lead the AALL offense. Chris Yonemoto’s circus catch of a line drive to left in the final inning brought the AALL crowd to its feet.
To get to the final, AALL fought off a strong Sierra Madre Reds team Saturday, 2-1, in a well-played game that AALL Navy’s pitching dominated. Joe Chung helped his own pitching cause with a two-run home run, Eskridge got a save and Michael Gruppie turned in a sensational starting effort by striking out all six Reds’ batters that he faced.
In the second round, AALL edged rival Santa Anita, 5-3. Devon Eskridge had the game-winning hit as Julian Eskridge saved Chung’s pitching win. Michael Gruppie turned in another strong starting effort, allowing no runs and no hits, but it was his play from short in the Santa Anita fourth that cut down what would have been the go-ahead run and stopped AALL’s momentum.
In its tournament opener, AALL avenged its only fall loss by routing Temple City Green, 15-1. Michael Gruppie earned the pitching victory and knocked three runs, Julian Eskridge had four RBIs, and Devon Eskridge had three hits.
Chung led all Fall players with seven total homers, Julian Eskridge drove in 19 runs, Devon Eskridge had 27 hits and played a strong second base, and Michael Gruppie surrendered only three hits and one run in 15 innings on the mound, striking out 35 batters.
The Fall tournament win capped perhaps the best season in AALL history. The league won two District 17 All-Star championships in July, came within a run of another and then AALL Navy went 11-1 in the fall.