The Reston Nationals All-Stars split their first two games at the Southeastern Region Little League Majors (ages 11-12) baseball tournament last week, positioning them nicely for a chance to advance to the semifinals of the eight-team tournament.
Reston, which earlier this season captured both the District 4 and Virginia State titles, opened up its play at Southeastern Regionals with a 2-0 win over the South Carolina state champions (Irmo Little League) Friday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m. The game took place at a Little League park facility in Warner Robins, Ga.
In a pitching duel, Reston received an outstanding showing from starter Patrick Francisco, who allowed just one hit over 5-1/3 innings of shutout ball. The right-hander, Reston’s pitching ace, struck out four and walked one.
Brian Lawson came into the game with one out in the top of the sixth inning and recorded the final two outs to earn the save.
Reston scored both of its runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on a two-run, two-out single by Eli Nachison, a Reston backup player who, with runners on second and third base, connected on a pitch which flew just over the second baseman’s outreached glove and out into right center field for the game’s biggest base hit.
Max Kidd had opened the inning with a walk. One out later Antonio Menendez reached first base on an error by the third baseman. Jack Kidd, a pinch runner for Max Kidd, advanced to second.
Later, with Nachison batting, both base runners advanced up a base on a passed ball. Then, on a 2-1 pitch, Nachison hit his game-defining base hit to give his team its 2-0 lead.
Those would be all the runs that were scored in the game. Reston finished with four base hits on the night. Francisco had the lone extra base hit for his team — a double — while teammates Sam Kidd, Brendan Grammes and Nachison each contributed singles.
Defensively in the win, Reston committed no errors in the field. The team received exceptional plays in the infield from middle infielders Sam Kidd (second baseman) and Grammes (shortstop).
It was a huge win for the Reston Nationals because it got the team’s feet wet in the tournament and built up some momentum going into the days ahead.
“It was huge for our confidence,” said Jeff Grammes, the Reston Nationals Manager, of the win. “On Friday night, they were so excited [for the game]. It’s probably the most excited I’ve seen the kids and [Reston] fans so far.”
THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON, Reston faced a powerful Florida team (New Tampa Little League). Over the years, Florida’s representative at Southeastern Regionals has captured numerous titles. This year’s representative from Tampa Bay proved to be just as daunting as the team from the sunshine state defeated Reston, 14-1, in the Saturday affair.
The game was scoreless through two innings with Lawson, the Reston starting pitcher, holding the Florida team at bay over the first two stanzas. But Florida, in the top of the third, got a leadoff home run and went on to score two more runs for a 3-0 lead.
Reston, however, got onto the scoreboard in its half of the inning. Jack Kidd started things off with a double off a two-strike pitch. Later in the inning, with two outs, Kidd was still on second when Brendan Grammes knocked a single to score Kidd and get Reston within 3-1. Francisco, the following batter, roped a line drive which was caught by the first baseman, preventing Grammes, who had gotten to second on a passed ball, from scoring.
That was as close as Reston would get to keeping it a close game as Florida batters struck for four runs in the top of the fourth, thanks to a grand slam homer, and then followed that up with three runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth to ice the game.
“Their pitcher threw 73 miles per hour,” said Jeff Grammes. “We just had trouble hitting him.”
Reston finished with three base hits in the game — a double by Jack Kidd and singles by Brendan Grammes and Francisco. Reston used five different pitchers in the game, which was played in 105-degree weather.
“We were just pretty well washed out [physically] by the end of the game,” said Jeff Grammes.
Grammes said the loss stung but that his team shook it off pretty quickly. By gaining a split over the first two games, Reston was in a position to be one of the two teams from its four-team Pool “A” to advance to the final four of the tournament if it could get a Monday late afternoon win over West Virginia (Fairmont Little League).
The Reston-West Virginia winner will be showcased on ESPN 2 on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 1 p.m., in a semifinals game. The loser of the Reston-West Virginia game was scheduled to play in a consolation game on Tuesday, Aug. 9 before returning home.
“It’s totally exciting and the kids are pumped up for it,” said Grammes, of the prospects of making it to the region semifinals and being televised on ESPN 2. “Hopefully, it will be a motivating force.”
On Sunday afternoon, an off day in the Southeastern tournament, all eight Majors’ teams gathered for a Little League-sponsored banquet at Aviation Museum on the Robins Air force Base in Warner Robins. About 1,000 people were in attendance and players from all eight teams got to meet one another and enjoy a southern style barbeque dinner.