Timely team hitting and clutch pitching were a winning combination for the Admirals Elite Baseball Club this weekend as they battled to take the 12u sliver championship of the annual USSSA Halloween Haunt Tournament at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center.
The Admirals, a new club team comprised of California District 17 little league all-stars, have now claimed two tournament titles in only two months of existence.
Sunday, Arcadia’s Michael Gruppie went the distance on the mound as the Admirals defeated the Villa Park Patriots, 11-4, in a game that was close until the Admirals scored five late runs. In the top of the fourth, the Patriots put the tying runs in scoring position with one out before Gruppie retired big Derek Benton on a popup and the struck out Kevin Nagao swinging to end the threat.
Gruppie and Altadena’s Sam Gutierrez and Riley Russell paced the Admirals at the plate with two RBIs each; Gutierrez and Russell both had two hits with one of Gutierrez’ hits a a double.
The Admirals got to the championship game thanks to heroics from Arcadia’s Julian Eskridge, who helped his own pitching cause with a pair of triples off Beach Baseball Club’s tough left-hander Dave Majerus that each traveled more than 250 feet at spacious Fountain Valley Recreation Center’s main diamond. Both booming extra-base hits scored Gruppie, who had the Admirals only other two hits, one of them a double, in an exciting 6-5 victory.
Eskridge went 3 1/3 innings, allowing only one earned run, to earn the victory. The Admirals received stellar defensive plays from Altadena’s Jackson Bacon at first and Arcadia’s Ryan Rizzo in left field to help preserve the win as Pasadena’s Jack Clougherty got the final out with the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Saturday, in their tournament-opening game, the Admirals ended a two-game losing streak to the Patriots by exploding for eight runs in the fourth inning en route to reversing a 4-1 deficit and claiming a 9-5 victory.
Clougherty had his best day at the plate as an Admiral with two hits including a long run-scoring double, Altadena’s Ben Staub had two RBIs, Arcadia’s Kellen Gewecke had two hits and Rizzo scored two key runs. Altadena’s Colin Noble had a key RBI hit in the fourth-inning uprising when eight Admirals in a row reached base and they sent 11 batters to the plate.
The Admirals were paced overall offensively at the Halloween Haunt tournament by Gruppie, who had six hits; Gewecke, three (in only two games); Noble, three; and Clougherty, three.
Gruppie closed the game for winning pitcher Eddie Jin of Arcadia by striking out the side in his one inning of work. Bacon turned in a solid starting effort as the Admirals demonstrated impressive pitching depth.
The Admirals return to tournament play this weekend.