By Rich Bevensee
If the outcomes of championship games were dictated solely by statistics, the Minutemen of Chester County, Pa., would have been facing a very dire David vs. Goliath situation on Sunday evening.
The Larchmont Mamaroneck Tigers rolled into the title game by offensively blitzing all three of their pool play opponents, whereas the Minutemen entered with vastly more modest numbers and played in much tighter ball games.
The stat sheet may not have looked promising for the Minutemen, but the Tigers were not counting on southpaw Micah Solomon to tilt the scales so drastically with a pitching performance perfectly timed for a championship game.
Solomon held the heavy-hitting Tigers to one run over 4⅔ innings while his teammates battered Tigers pitching en route to a 6-2 victory in the Summer Bash 11U finale at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“That’s a very good team over there, a very strong offensive team, and what we needed to do was command the strike zone, and Micah in particular did that,” Minutemen coach Tom Downie said. “He was able to change speeds and he was able to locate his offspeed pitches for strikes, and when you can locate multiple pitches at multiple speeds for strikes, you can do something like that to a really good lineup.”
The Tigers stormed into the final having outscored three pool play opponents by a combined 55-4. The Minutemen finished 3-0 in pool play, although they fought for two one-run victories, and they posted a not-so-imposing 24-15 combined margin of victory.
“We ran into a good pitcher,” Tigers coach Matt Paquin said. “He threw off- speed early in the count, he kept us off balance, and the ones we hit didn’t find holes. We scored a lot of runs this weekend by taking advantage of pitches we didn’t miss, and honestly, some of the pitching up until this game wasn’t as good as it was in this game.”
Solomon, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, allowed one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He possessed a very mature sense of when to throw off-speed pitches to Tigers batters, who more than once bailed out of the batter’s box only to see the pitch drop in for a strike.
“I throw bullpens at my house three times a week with my dad (Dustin Solomon),” Micah said. “He’s told me the most important thing is to get the first pitch strike on a batter so you can get ahead and use your offspeed instead of just using the fastball.”
“He’s a very seasoned pitcher with a very high baseball IQ, and that’s what makes him special,” Downie said. “Obviously he has a good presence on the mound, a strong arm and good mechanics, but what makes him special is between the ears.”
The Tigers, trailing 3-0 with two out in the bottom of the fifth inning, may have thought they were getting a break when Solomon left the game after getting hit by a batted ball. Levi Sigel lined a ball back to the mound which struck Solomon in the right shoulder blade. Solomon tried throwing a warmup pitch but left the game in pain.
“I threw a fastball and when he hit it, it seemed like slow motion when it hit me in the shoulder,” Solomon said. “I didn’t want to come out. I threw one warmup but it was tight so I didn’t want to risk it. It bothered me a lot to come out.”
Right-hander Jacob Miehl, who earlier drove in a run with a ground out, relieved Solomon and gave up one run on one hit in the sixth before slamming the door on the Tigers.
After scoring 55 runs in three games, the Tigers, hitless in the first three innings, were held to two runs on four hits by Solomon and Miehl.
“This is our first championship at Diamond Nation with this group,” Downie said. “I’ve been here with some older groups and won with older groups and it’s hard, one of the hardest of any venues because the competition is so tremendous.”
The game was scoreless heading into the top of the third inning, when Solomon drove in the game’s first run with a hard grounder up the middle, scoring Cole Daugherty.
In the fourth the Minutemen boosted their lead to 3-0. Jack Taylor and Declan Murray singled to lead off the inning before T.J. Grawl plated Taylor with a single to right, and Miehl pushed home Murray from third with an infield ground out.
Solomon not only had command of his pitches but of his infield as well. The Tigers didn’t register their first base hit until the bottom of the fourth when Charlie Paquin blooper fell into shallow right. Solomon then picked off Paquin. When the Tigers’ Matt Ingardia followed with a single, Solomon picked him off, too.
The Tigers finally scored in the fifth when Sigel’s line drive off Solomon drove in Evan Gray from third.
The Minutemen added some more insurance in the top of the sixth. Luke Schmitt singled, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch for a 4-0 gap. After Taylor and Murray both walked, Grawl cranked an opposite field, two-run double to left.
“We just got to it early and wanted to hit,” Grawl said. “We jumped on them early, that was really it. It’s unbelievable knowing we won. I’m so excited. I think we won because we stay calm in high pressure situations.”
The Tigers didn’t go down quietly. In the bottom of the sixth, Alex Chiou was hit by a pitch, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Paquin single.
For the Tigers, Lorenzo Willey pitched five innings and allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts. J.P. Jacobs permitted three runs in the sixth on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts.