OTTAWA — Throughout the season, returning to the championship game of the Ottawa Little League 11-12 City Tournament — and ultimately winning it — was on the Garden's Gate Nationals' mind.
"That was part of our mission," Nationals manager Tim Creedon said.
The Ottawa American (northside) regular-season champion Nationals plated a trio of runs during the third inning and later held off the Sam's Pizza Rockies in the final frame to edge them 4-3 in the title contest — the 55th edition, dating back to 1954 — at Library Park.
"It feels great after losing last year and coming in second place. It's awesome to win it," said the Nationals Ky Araujo, who notched the save and was 2-for-3 at the plate. Araujo was one of a half dozen players back from last year's runner-up team.
"It was a real championship game; good couple (starting) pitchers (the Nationals Chandler Creedon and the Rockies Ryker Reynolds), not too many hits — a lot of strikeouts — not many errors. We battled through it," Tim Creedon said of his ballclub.
"It was a tough game."
The Nationals (19-1) tallied the initial run in the bottom of the first inning when Jacob Rosetto crossed home with two outs following an error on a double-steal attempt.
The Rockies (9-11) scored twice in the top of the third. Number nine batter Mark Munson drew a leadoff walk. Easton DeBernardi, a 10-year-old call-up, followed with a check-swing single into left field. With one out, Lucas Farabaugh brought in Munson with a fielder's choice before Jagger Rodriguez coaxed a bases-loaded walk to bring in DeBernardi.
The Nationals answered in the bottom of the inning. Their first three hitters — Ky Araujo (single), Rosetto (hit by pitch) and Kaden Araujo (single) — all reached base and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch, a dropped-third strike and an RBI groundout by Jaxon Carrier, respectively, giving the Nats a 4-2 advantage.
The Rockies made things interesting during their final at-bat in the sixth. Collin Lyons led off by reaching on an error. With one out, Matt Graham was hit by a pitch. Munson then drove in Lyons with a single to left to make it a 4-3 ballgame. On the same play, Graham was thrown out at third, though, for the second out. DeBernardi followed with an infield hit, a dribbler to short. Reynolds was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Ky Araujo (1 2/3 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K) proceeded to fan the next batter to end the game.
"I mean, it's how we expected it to be coming in," said Rockies manager Corey Hall of the game playing out like it did. "I know they had their best (pitcher starting); we had our best. They were the team to beat, and we played them well. There really isn't anything to be ashamed about.
"We're a young team. We started off the season with a big win, then, you know, we were in a little bit of a rut there. But we ended up piecing it together. We gave the Nationals their only loss during the season. We beat the No. 1 seed on the southside in the first round. I couldn't be more proud of my kids the way that they overcame everything this season, especially having to play with only nine kids all season. ..."
"I still haven't exhaled yet, how close of an inning that (sixth) was," said Tim Creedon in reference to the Rockies' last-ditch effort. "Ky's sort of been our (No.) 3 (pitcher) — we have two good starters (Chandler Creedon and Rosetto) — our fireman all season.
"Chandler (winning pitcher; 4 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 8 K) pitched well, Ryker (4 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 6 K) pitched well and (our) defense played well. We just got the kids on base, and we grinded them over.
"We had a long season. It's tough being sort of (the favorite). It was a great job (by the kids) to hang in there.
"We talked about getting (to the championship game last year) and getting second place and feeling rotten at the end. We talked about through the season getting (back) here and feeling good heading home, and they did it. I'm proud of them."
At Library Park, Ottawa
Nationals 4, Rockies 3
ROCKIES (3) — DeBernardi rf 4-1-2-0, Reynolds p/ss 3-0-1-0, O. Lyons 1b 3-0-0-0, Farabaugh c 2-0-0-1, Rodriguez 3b 2-0-0-1, C. Lyons 2b 3-1-0-0, Sexton lf 3-0-0-0, Graham ss/p 1-0-0-0, Munson cf 2-1-1-1. Totals 23-3-4-3.
NATIONALS (4) — Ky. Araujo c/p 3-1-2-0, Rosetto ss 1-2-0-0, Ka. Araujo 2b/c 2-1-1-0, Creedon p/2b 3-0-1-0, Carrier cf 2-0-0-1, Grady 3b 3-0-0-0, Poggi 1b 2-0-1-0, H. Carretto lf 0-0-0-0, D. Carretto lf 1-0-0-0, Stacy rf 1-0-0-0, Vahl rf 1-0-0-0. Totals 19-4-5-1.
Rockies (9-11) 002 001 — 3 4 1
Nationals (19-1) 103 00x — 4 5 1
LOB — Rockies 9, Nationals 5. HBP — O. Lyons (by Creedon), Graham (by Ky. Araujo), Rosetto (by Reynolds). SB — Creedon. CS — Creedon, Carrier.
Rockies ip r er h bb k
Reynolds (L) 4.0 4 3 4 4 6
Graham 1.0 0 0 1 0 2
Nationals ip r er h bb k
Creedon (W) 4.1 2 2 2 4 8
Ky. Araujo (S) 1.2 1 0 2 1 2