Easton 6 — Tri City 1
ST. MICHAELS — Next pitch.
Garrett Fink has heard those two words repeatedly over the past few years while working with pitching coach Mike Butler of Denton.
Friday, Easton manager Cory Fink, sensing his son was getting a little frustrated with a few calls, gently offered those same words.
It sure seemed to work. Backed by an air-tight defense, the right-hander retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced to put the finishing touches on a complete game two-hitter as Easton defeated Tri City, 6-1, to win the District 6 Little League baseball championship at Perry Cabin Park.
Easton (4-0) advances to the state tournament in Frederick, where it’s scheduled to meet the District 8 champion next Saturday at 4 p.m.
“Wow,” Cory Fink said of the effort delivered by his son, which included pocketing his loose tooth while facing Tri City’s second-to-last batter. “Couple calls didn’t go his way and you could tell with his body language. I just kept emphasizing to him, next pitch. And Mike Butler, who does his pitching lessons, has taught him that for the last couple of years. You’ve just got to stay focused on the next pitch, and he was able to do that.”
Tri City (4-2) loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the second, as Lane Abey singled, Nick Cummings was hit by a pitch, and Austin Hubbard singled. But Garrett Fink got a called third strike to end the inning.
Easton took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second, but Tri City looked ready to respond, when Brian Chester and T.J. Leonard worked back-to-back walks to open the third. Cory Fink visited the mound to settle his team, watched the runners advance on a wild pitch before Garrett Fink got another called third strike for the first out.
Chester raced home on a passed ball to make it 3-1, but Garrett Fink got another hitter looking at strike three before getting an inning-ending groundout to third.
Easton’s starting pitcher appeared to get a little down again in the fourth, when he hit leadoff hitter Abey with a pitch. But Abey would be Tri City’s final baserunner of the game, as Garrett Fink got a fly out to center, then logged his fifth and sixth strikeouts.
“Incredibly proud of his effort,” Cory Fink said of his son.
Garrett Fink needed just three pitches to retire the side in the fifth, inducing two groundouts and a fly-ball out to left.
Second baseman Dylan Cassell made a nice stabbing catch to take away a potential leadoff hit by Brock Warrell to open the sixth, then watched Fink notched his seventh and final strikeout before first baseman Will Sherwood shuffled down the line to catch Abey’s pop-up for the game’s final out.
“He was good,” Tri City manager Jim Fraccaroli said of Garrett Fink. “He’s got a funny little delivery, and it’s hard to pick up. They struggled with him. But heckuva job by them. That’s a good team over there. Well-coached team.”
With one out in the Easton second, Pearson Greenwood walked, Cassell singled sharply to left, and Mike O’Connor reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Consecutive walks to Brady Lyons and Chase Raab gave Easton a 2-0 lead. Tri City starter Sutton Dukes was relieved by Leonard, who gave up an RBI single to Cole Mooney before recording a strikeout and an inning-ending fly-out.
Kayden Webb reached on an error to open the third and raced home when Greenwood’s grounder was thrown away, making it 4-0. Tri-City shortcircuited the rally, though, as shortstop Warrell caught Cassell’s sinking line drive and fired to third to get Greenwood for a double play. Leonard got a groundout to end the third.
Easton extended its lead to 6-1 with no outs in the fourth, as Lyons and Raab hit back-to-back singles and scored when the ball got thrown away. But Leonard got a strikeout, a sparkling defensive play from Abey on a pop-out at second, then watched his teammates get Sherwood in an inning-ending rundown between third and home.
Leonard yielded three runs — none earned — four hits, a walk and struck out three in 3 2/3 innings of relief.
“He kept us in it,” Fraccaroli said of Leonard. “Couple errors; things happen. It’s Little League baseball. It’s 11-12 baseball. We had some good pitching. Had some good at-bats.
“We fought hard,” Fraccaroli continued. “That’s what we asked them to do. That’s what they did. I’m just proud of them.”
Tri City advanced with a 15-3 victory over Homerun Baker Wednesday night. Thursday’s championship game reached the top of the second, when play was called because of lightning with two outs and two on in the Tri City second.
“Good effort by Tri City,” Cory Fink said. “To battle out of the losers’ bracket all week long ... those boys deserve a lot of credit.”
Easton’s manager praised the pitching of Greenwood (Game 1), Sherwood (Game 2) and Webb and Cassell (Game 3), then complimented his defense in the clincher.
“Wow, what an incredible defense,” Cory Fink said. “Tri City put the ball in play hard and my boys were there all day.
“Top to bottom,” Fink added. “Our subs came in to bat and did what they needed to do. Just incredibly proud of all these kids.