The Bulls from the American Little League AAA division defeated the National champion Nuts in Monday's city title in walk off fashion.
Noah Lema, who has been the Bulls' hero all season long, stepped up big again for his team in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs in a very dramatic situation.
Lema blooped a 1-2 pitch to the inside part of the right field line and Colton Webster came home to win it 4-3 in a packed night at Julien field.
“I said it before the inning that Noah is going to come through for us and win it as he had all year and it came true,” said Bulls head coach Nick Hackler of the outcome. “We told them it would be a grind and the kids played big in the end, couldn't be more excited than a walk off.”
But it wasn't the easiest game, especially since they were facing the team that had the Cinderella story last year, earning a National title at the AAA division with underdog odds.
“After 17 years of coaching, what I think got us here was the kids playing ball,” said Nuts head coach Jaime Trujillo. “Because any close plays were rarely on our side and me and my coaches knew we had to work hard because I promised the American coach I would see him at the city title game.”
The Nuts, which had lost only one game all year behind head coach Trujillo, set a record of 15-1-2 before Monday's game and played just as intense with the city trophy on the line.
Without their ace, the Nuts turned to Abriel Padilla who started the game for the Nuts and gave them a strong 3 and 1/3 innings before being subbed out.
The Bulls, however, were the first to score a run and led by 1-0 until the fourth inning.
Padilla helped himself on offense in the top of the fourth with an RBI double that drove in Alejandro Trujillo to tie it at 1-1.
With runners in the corner and a pitching change for the Bulls, the Nuts capitalized on a pass ball and multiple miscues by the Bulls, and drove in their two runners to make it 3-1.
“Honestly I thought the Bulls were going to 10-run us but I told our kids we could battle,” said Trujillo. “In the end I thought we were the winners because it was this close, I just thank God for the kids, it's not to win a championship, they are here to play the right way and show it.”
Still relaxed, the Bulls maintained their composure and got out of the fourth trailing 3-1.
Kristian Guerrero then hit a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth inning for the Bulls to tie it at 3-3, scoring Drew White and Lema.
“Overall we played pretty consistent throughout the year and had a ton of leaders step up for the year and we didn't have too many ups and downs for the most part,” said Hackler.
The Bulls went 9-3 during the regular season and with two 7-year-olds in the lineup, they still held on to a strong outing and won the American title.
“It is all I could ask for... what they were able to achieve here,” said Hackler. “We had so much balance all year.”
Lema started the game and went 3 innings before White came in to relieve and close it out.
White ended up getting seven strikeouts for the final seven out, setting up his team for an opportunity to win it with a 3-3 game in the bottom of the sixth.
Webster hit a triple with one out and then after the Nuts got the second out, Lema was up with Webster at third and a chance to be the team's hero again.
Well he did that, hitting an RBI blooper single near the right field line to cap off a tight one-run game.
“We were rolling with our lineup and had our big hitters coming up at that point, our No. 2 and No. 3 hitter, which have been reliable all year in Lema and he came through,” said Hackler.
“I thank God for the kids playing so hard and this story, I will never forget it, I wanted to do this story because these kids only lost one game before this game,” said Trujillo. “We were not expecting to do much at all but the kids did it.”
Next for both sides will be the Tournament of Champions, which will take place at Julien field from Saturday through Thursday. The opponents and times have yet to be announced.
“Tournament of Champions starts this weekend and have to make sure to keep errors down and seems like we been playing a lot of tight games and we are just trying to keep the kids focused,” Hackler added.