The championship game in the Juniors Little League District 2 tournament turned out to be the battle of Monroe, as #1 seed Monroe Black took advantage of numerous errors and walks to seize the crown from the #2 seed, hometown opponent Monroe Red by a score of 11-1 (stopped in the bottom of the sixth due to the mercy rule).
Despite tallying only 5 hits all game, they were able to push across 6 runs in a wild 4th inning which saw 4 errors by Monroe Red. All six runs were scored with two outs.
"We capitalized on errors, which we've done all year," said Monroe Black coach Keith Crosby. "We were a very good hitting team when it counted."
Monroe Red coach Rob Jarnutowski agreed that it wasn't the type of inning he was hoping for from his team, and proved to be taxing on starting pitcher Patrick Ryan.
"When we were in the field we made errors that gave them runs," Jarnutowski noted. "That forced our pitcher to pitch longer than he should've, and we had to pull him out sooner than we wanted to."
Riding an offensive hot streak all tournament long, Monroe Black starting pitcher Chris Lindquist topped it off by hurling a masterful pitching performance. Lindquist gave up just one hit (a 3rd inning single by Brandon Dwyer) before being lifted with two outs in the 5th inning due to his pitch count, striking out 10 batters along the way. He also added a booming double to right center in the bottom of the 3rd.
"We played well, but (Lindquist) threw a one-hitter," said Jarnutowski. "Good pitching always beats good hitting. That’s what happened."
Ryan also pitched well for his team, charged with only one earned run entering the bottom of the 4th, where four team errors doomed his cause. He was eventually taken out with two outs in the frame, replaced at the mound by teammate Matthew Hidalgo. Monroe Black held a 9-1 lead, before two bases loaded walks in the bottom of the 6th padded the lead to 10 and triggered the mercy rule. Third baseman Quinton Barker reached base three times for the winners and scored two runs.
Coach Crosby approved of his team's play.
"We made a couple of errors out there, but they played how we taught them all year, which is smart baseball," he said. "Play good defense, aggressive base-running, and you’ll win ballgames. Twenty one wins is a testament to that."
Crosby also appreciated the way his team played together, and despite losing their first game of the tournament to Easton, they ran the table en route to 6 straight wins and the championship.
"My teams always gel," he said. "They're friends, they're buddies … some are in different grades but they all get along. You saw that here. We even made a couple of errors but hung in there. This team is very gelled."
Monroe Red shortstop Ryan Jarnutowski was the team's offensive star, walking three times and scoring their lone run. But this game belonged to Lindquist and his Monroe Black teammates, as they claimed the District 2 Juniors crown in dominating fashion.
Next up for this group is the Juniors All Stars, which will feature a combination of players from both squads in a tournament against other area towns. Play begins this Friday at 5:30 against Fairfield at Veterans Park in Bridgeport. Saturday morning will see Monroe battle Bridgeport North End in the double-elimination format.
Right now, however, both coaches are proud of their teams' efforts and successful runs in this tournament. The fact that both Monroe teams, entering play as the #1 and #2 seeds, were able to meet in the championship game is quite an accomplishment.
"We’re proud of these kids," said Jarnutowski. "Monroe came in as the #1 and #2 seeds, and we were both in the winners bracket. Hats off."