Rockies hold off Orioles for title
Appeal Sports Writer
In the heat of a warm Friday night at Governor’s Field, as players and happy parents poured bottles and buckets of water on his head, it was hard to tell what was sweat or water or whatever kind of liquid that rolled down Rockies coach Joe Tucker’s cheeks after his team defeated the Orioles, 10-7, to win the Little League (11-12 year old) City Championship.
But Tucker’s 7-year-old daughter Makenzie could see what others couldn’t.
“Aw, is he sad?” she said, looking up to her father while hugging one of his legs.
That meant that Tucker was only half-kidding when he said, “Now I can hide my tears,” as someone dumped more water on his head.
“Nathan (Landes) and Jacob (Meyers) were the first draft choices I got three years ago – that’s why I’m real emotional right now,” Tucker said. “I hate to see them go.”
Landes, who finished 1-for-4, did give Tucker a good reason to smile in the bottom of the fourth inning, when he smashed a Stephen Anderson offering over the left-center field fence for a pair of runs and an 8-1 Rockies lead.
“Here comes the leader of the team by example,” a beaming Tucker said as the 12-year-old Landes made his way over for an interview.
“It was awesome,” Landes said of his blast. “It was my second home run of the season. Next year I’m going to the big field. It was especially good because it’s my last year in majors.”
As it turned out, Landes’ shot provided all the cushion the Rockies – who jumped out to a 6-0 lead – would need.
Trailing 8-1, the Orioles fought back hard in the fifth inning, putting six runs on the board.
Gehrig Tucker relived Rockies starter Daniel Okimura, who left after a solid four innings (he gave up one run, two hits and a walk) and ran into a buzzsaw, facing 10 batters in the fifth.
Second baseman Ben Drozdoff, who led off with a single, scored on a pair of errors, and, with the bases loaded, shortstop Joe Zinda nearly hit a grand slam, but his towering bomb went foul. Zinda wasn’t discouraged, however, and he immediately followed up with a double through the gap to bring in two runners and cut the lead to 8-4.
Stephen Anderson grounded out to first, but Dion Copoulos scored from third on the play. First baseman David Yamamoto followed with a 2-RBI single down the third-base line to make it 8-7 before Tucker got Drozdoff to ground out to third to end the inning.
The 11-year-old Tucker, named for Lou Gehrig, gave up four hits during the onslaught, but also went 4-for-4 from the plate, giving the Rockies a 3-0 lead with a two-run single in the third. He also scored three runs.
“I didn’t pitch my best, but I came back and got three outs to win the game,” Tucker said of his three-up, three-down performance in the sixth. “I hit it pretty good.”
Asked how the win felt, Tucker had three words: “Like no other.”
Tucker and shortstop T.J. Thomsen, who went 3-for-4, with 3 RBI and two runs scored, both scored on a pair of errors to put the Rockies up 10-7 in the bottom of the fifth.
The 10-year-old Thomsen gave the Rockies a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI-single and drilled a two-run triple in the second to make it 5-0.
“It was fun,” Thomsen said. “Last year in the minors we finished second. This year was great. Our team hustled.”
Caden Mitchell scored on a passed ball to make it 6-0 to round out the Rockies’ scoring and open Joe Tucker’s tear ducts.
“They’re great little kids to be around,” Tucker said. “They went as hard as they can. It’s just been a blessing for these kids and a joy for me. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. We both were down to our last straws with our pitching. They threw what they had, I thought we equaled that. The ball fell our way.”
And the future looks bright for the Rockies, who celebrated by going out for some pizza.
“We lose only two kids next year,” Tucker said. “Everybody’s coming back. Look out next year. We’re going for the Angels’ record. They only lost one.”