LA VERNE LITTLE LEAGUE PLAYOFFS: Dodgers and Pirates Put Fans on the Edge of Their Seats

May 25, 2017
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The Dodgers were in a mood to celebrate after Anthony Cantu (in black helmet) blasted a sixth inning home run.

Depending on which side of the stands you were sitting in, the Pirates won a nail-biter, 4-3, or the Dodgers lost a heartbreaker, 4-3.


Of the full slate of playoff games this week at Pelota Park, this contest may have been the best, because the closeness of the contest was so unexpected. Entering the game, the Pirates were the No. 1 seed and the Dodgers were the bottom seed.


But early on, their David and Goliath roles appeared reversed with the Dodgers looking very much like the league champion. In the top of the third, Seth “the Bear” Wrightstone showed he had the “wright” stuff, connecting on a solo monster blast that caromed off a palm tree to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. Meanwhile, Anthony Cantu was dealing on the mound, shutting down the Pirates’ vaunted offensive attack.


Cantu heads home after his sixth-inning blast.

In the fourth, Cantu gained first base courtesy of an infield error. When a pickoff throw to first sailed down the right field line, Cantu rounded the bases to score the Dodgers’ second run and put the Blue Crew up, 2-0.


The Pirates scratched back for one run in the bottom of the fourth, cutting the deficit to 2-1. While Nolan Smith led off the inning with a single and would eventually come around to score on a wild pitch, the Pirates couldn’t cash in Jared Brunk, stranding him at third.


Still, the crowd sensed the Pirates hadn’t yet shown their best. All year long, the team had found the winning formula, and Thursday would prove no different. In the bottom of the fateful fifth, Ryan Barton nursed a walk, and then the biggest and most clutch hit of the night came off the bat of Jacob Carlson who laced a double down the right field, putting runners at second and third with only one out and setting the table for the top of the lineup.


Barton subsequently scored on a pitch that leaked back to the backstop, knotting the game at 2-2, and then the Pirates took the lead 3-2 on an infield single by Kairns. The Pirates got some needed insurance on another RBI single by Smith to stretch the lead to 4-2.


But the Dodgers had played too well not to put up one more fight. Leading off the top of the sixth, Cantu smashed a homer, narrowing the Pirates’ lead to 4-3 and throwing a scare into the Pittsburgh faithful. Then with one out Melgar singled down the right field line, putting the tying run aboard to further ratchet up the tension. Melgar would eventually advance to third, but would remain there as the game ended.


The Dodgers had fallen just 60 feet short of tying the game and sending shockwaves around the league, but credit the Pirates for digging in when it counted and finding a way to win as they have all season.


All told, it was the tightest game of the playoffs, highlighted by good defense, especially Melgar’s sterling play in centerfield, solid pitching and some timely hitting.


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Dodgers infielders take a knees as they watch Seth Wrightstone warm up in relief.

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