What has been a brilliant postseason run by the West Springfield American All-Star Majors (11-12 year olds) came to an end on Tuesday night, July 27, when the locals lost to Southwestern Youth Association (SYA) East, 10-4, in a Virginia State Little League tournament semifinals baseball game played on Steve Reavis Field at Freedom Park in Leesburg.
West Springfield American, which earlier this postseason captured the District 9 title, won its first four state tournament games, including a 12-10 quarterfinals round victory over Culpeper County on Monday evening at Freedom Park, to reach the semifinals meeting versus SYA East, a team made up of Centreville players.
Springfield American, in Tuesday’s elimination loss, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when shortstop and leadoff hitter Billy Cook sent a home run over the center field fence off of SYA East pitcher Sam Ryan. The lead stood until the top of the third inning when SYA East broke out for six runs and hit three home runs to go ahead 6-1.
That was still the score until the bottom of the fifth inning when West Springfield rallied with two outs. Cook and Sam Smith both singled with two outs before moving up a base on a Ryan wild pitch. The next hitter, catcher Michael Morgan, then lofted a soaring three-run home run well over the center field fence to get the Americans within 6-4.
At that point, West Springfield was right back in the game. However, SYA East, ahead by two runs, answered in the top of the sixth with another big inning — this one accounting for four runs to make the score 10-4.
SYA East went on to gain the win, earning a spot in the following night’s state finals where they were scheduled to meet the Reston Nationals for the right to move on to the Southeastern Regionals tournament set to begin Aug. 5.
For West Springfield American, the semifinals loss to SYA East ended an outstanding postseason run.
“The kids played their hearts out,” said West Springfield American Manager Ken Shreves, of his squad. “We had our ace [Sam Smith] on the mound, they just hit him. I think we were very evenly matched teams.”
Six home runs were hit in the game, four by SYA East and two by West Springfield American (Cook and Morgan).
WEST SPRINGFIELD AMERICAN hit the ball well off SYA East starter Sam Ryan, who allowed four runs and eight hits over 5-2/3 innings to notch the win. Morgan, his team’s No. 3 hitter in the line-up, led West Springfield American with three hits while Cook had two.
In the bottom of the third inning, West Springfield American threatened to put together a big inning but came away with no runs. Tyler Wines, the No. 9 hitter, started things off with a line drive single into left field. Cook then hit a scorching line drive that ended up being turned into a double play when SYA East shortstop Ryan Brusick caught the ball and threw to first to double up the runner. Smith then walked and Morgan grounded a single into left field before the final out of the inning was made.
But two innings later, West Springfield American closed within 6-4 on Morgan’s three-run homer.
“We got right back into the game,” said Shreves. “The players and the coaches thought we’d come back.”
Throughout the postseason, SYA East, the District 10 champion, hit 30 home runs over their first nine games, including the win over West Springfield American. Hitting home runs, along with good starting pitching, have been staples of the SYA’s playoff success.
“That’s kind of been our mojo right there,” said SYA East Manager Jamie Brusick, of his team’s keys to winning throughout the postseason All-Stars district and state tournaments. “We try to stay in the game with pitching and defense, and eventually our bats will wake up.”
With its semifinals win over West Springfield American, SYA East was one win away from successfully defending last year’s state crown.
WEST SPRINGFIELD AMERICAN entered the state playoffs on a roll after having won the District 9 title, including a 12-0 district finals win over South County at Veterans Park in Woodbridge.
At states, the squad won its first three games — victories over Virginia Beach, 11-5, Churchland (Suffolk), 15-3, and Tuckahoe, 13-12 — to win its pool division and advance to the single-elimination quarterfinals where it defeated Culpeper County in the high-scoring 12-10 affair on Monday at Freedom Park. In that game, West Springfield jumped out to a 6-0 lead and still led 8-6 later in the ball game. But Culpeper scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to go ahead 9-8.
West Springfield American, however, stormed back for four runs in its final at-bats in the top of the sixth inning to surge ahead 12-9. Highlights of the big inning included a home run by Morgan, a double by Andy Shreves, and a clutch squeeze bunt RBI down the first base line by David Leitzel to break a 9-9 tie.
West Springfield reliever Tyler Wines, in the bottom of the sixth, came into the game to retire the final batter to earn the save and clinch the win for his team. Morgan hit two home runs in the win and Sam Smith hit one out as well.
Defensively, West Springfield committed two errors in the win over Culpeper, the first two defensive miscues the team had committed at states.
Ken Shreves, the team’s manager, said his squad never believed it was out of a game throughout the district and state playoffs.
“They have a never give up attitude,” he said. “These guys believed in themselves and believed that no matter what the score, they could come back. There are 18 outs in a game and they knew if they gave up a few runs they could still come back.”