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June 28, 2011 > Cardinals claim TOC title

Cardinals claim TOC title

By Nick Zambrano

An undefeated season in sports is a rarity. Hardly has a team reached the pinnacle of the mountain and looked down to see that they were truly the best of the best. But in the case of Mission San Jose Little League Minor A Cardinals, this has proven to be true. In the District 14 Tournament of Champions championship game, the Cardinals capped off the perfect season when they defeated the Niles-Centerville Little League Phillies, 5-1.

On the bump for the Cardinals was ace Ben Hansen. Hansen, who has been a formidable foe to those he has faced, showed a little bit of rust in the first. After striking out NCLL lead-off hitter Tallon Becker to start the game, Hansen allowed two NCLL runners on. However, displaying a good amount of composure, the young righty retired counterpart Hayden Fuller on a come-backer and stranded the two Philly base runners.

Moving from the bump to the batter's box, Hansen got the ball rolling once again. With Vinit Majnudar on third via a walk, a wild pitcher and a throwing error, Hansen was in prime position to get his team on the board first. He fell behind in the count 1-2, but took the next pitch from Fuller and took it to center field for a one out single.

With a 1-0 lead in their hands now, Hansen and the Cardinals went into lockdown mode. Hansen did his part on the mound and after the first inning as he struck out the next seven hitters he faced. He'd finish the game with 13 punch outs.

MSJLL finally notched some crooked numbers on the scoreboard in their half of the third inning. After a pair of walks put Shibu Shelat and Hansen in scoring position, it was clean-up hitter Teg Singh's turn to play run producer. The right handed slugger made due and slapped a triple down the right field line that scored Shelat and Hansen to make it 3-0 game. However, a head's up play by the Phillies caught Singh rounding third for the final out in the inning.

Through four innings, the only base runners that the Phillies could obtain against Hansen were all through errors on the Cardinal defense. It wasn't until a double off the bat of Hayden Fuller in the fifth that the Phillies grabbed their first hit. But once again, it was Hansen to the rescue. With Fuller on second, Hansen was able to punch out Connor Perry and Levi Huffman to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, Shelat led off with another walk. After another walk to Majnudar and a single from Hansen, the bases were loaded for Singh. Having learned from the at-bat against Fuller, reliever Frankie Lawrence played the cautious card against Singh, but unfortunately, it worked against him. Shelat scored on a walk to Singh.

Immediately after, Ethan Farasat struck out on a pitch in the dirt. The ball slipped past catcher Kevin Cameron far enough for Majnudar to score from third. After that, MSJLL had a commanding 5-0 lead.

It was now or never for the Phillies in the top of the sixth. Due to reaching his pitch limit, Hansen gave the ball over to Farasat. If ever there was a time to strike back, it would be when Hansen was off the mound.

After striking out Lawrence to start off the inning, Farasat allowed a walk to Chad Godfrey. Godfrey would end up at third on a throwing error that allowed Chris Villalobos to reach second. Being a head's up runner, Godfrey slipped under a wild pitch to score the Phillies' only run of the game.

After that, Farasat settled back down and retired the final two hitters of the game. The Phillies came into the Thursday, June 23 showdown undefeated as well but left with a 22-1 mark; the Cardinals finished off their stunning season at 23-0.

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