By the time Hoover and Son Insurance and Eastside Market advanced to the 7-8-year-old machine pitch tournament championship, the crowd gathered knew an epic game would be on its way.
Both teams won one-run games early in the day to advance to the finals. The last game was no different, as the teams were nip-and-tuck all the way through. Two runs by Hoover and Son in the fifth inning ended up securing an 8-5 win in the championship.
Hoover and Son was the regular-season champion, while Eastside Market finished the season in second place. Eastside had hoped to flip-flop the standings in the tournament, but came up one inning short of pulling out the tournament championship.
Jackson Sauer’s two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the fifth gave Hoover and Son a three-run cushion going into the final inning.
Omari Harris came up with the final out when he made a diving stop of a grounder to first base and recovered quickly enough to win a foot race with C.J. Taylor to the bag.
Harris’ defensive stop was one of many great plays by both teams in the championship.
Hoover and Son second baseman Jared Scruggs set the tone on the first ball hit of the game. Taylor smashed a shot to second base looking to give Eastside an early base runner.
Scruggs didn’t give Harris the opportunity. The second baseman made a diving back-handed stop and tossed to first for the first out as congratulations came from his coaches and ooh’s and ah’s resonated from the stands.
Scruggs triggered a three-run first inning for Hoover and Son with a double. Harris came through with a single to score the team’s first run.
After a double from Christian Espinoza, Sauer began his MVP-like performance with a two-run double to give his team a 3-0 lead.
Both teams went scoreless in the second, but Eastside’s bats would wake up in the third inning. Back-to-back singles from Taylor and Charlie Moore gave the team its first runner in scoring position.
Ryland Holder’s single scored Taylor to make it 3-1, then Kason Holder made it a one-run game with a RBI single of his own.
After Hoover and Son went down in order in the third inning, Regan Woodlee began the fourth with a single for Eastside Market.
Woodlee’s time on base would be short-lived however. Briley Moore followed with a line drive to first base as Woodlee took off for second. Harris snagged the ball though, then tagged first for an unassisted double play.
The solid glove work seemed to ignite the Hoover and Son offense, as Espinoza began the fourth with a bang. Espinoza hit a triple into left-center field. As he headed toward third, a relay throw went errant. Espinoza was signaled to go home, but the catcher for Eastside got the ball with Espinoza still five steps from home.
Espinoza retreated back to third, but Eastside’s catcher overthrew his mark on an attempt to nail the runner. The toss into left field gave Espinoza an easy path to home and gave Hoover and Son a 4-2 advantage.
Sauer followed with a triple and scored on the next bat as Dellan Watson doubled. Watson would come around to score on a single by Brady Pegg to give Hoover and Son a 6-2 lead.
Most of the lead would be erased by Eastside’s three-run fifth inning. Taylor began with a triple, then scored on a single by Moore. Ryland Holder singled as well, and his brother Kason would drive in Moore with a RBI single.
Jayln Mart, who earned the distinction as the only player with a home run over the fence in the league early in the tournament, brought around Ryland to make it 6-5.
It would prove to be as close as Eastside would get to winning as Sauer’s double in the sixth was enough to give Hoover and Son a clean sweep of the league’s championships and perfect record for the year.
Sauer led Hoover and Son with three hits and four RBIs. Espinoza, Harris, Scruggs, Watson, Pegg and David Netherton also had hits in the victory for Hoover and Son.
Three-hit performances for Moore and Ryland Holder weren’t enough to give Eastside Market the victory. Taylor, Mart, Woodlee, Moore and Kason Holder chipped in hits as Eastside took home second-place finishes in the season and tournament.