The all-star team from the Santa Margarita National Little League earned a berth in the Little League World Series Saturday evening with an 11-7 victory over its counterpart from Utah’s Dixie Little League.
Drew Rutter homered twice and Joey Gray and Bobby Gray once each as part of Santa Margarita’s 17-hit attack. Rutter and Joey Gray both drove in three runs. Joey Gray had three hits, and Rutter, Bobby Gray, A.J. Gamulao and Garrett Strenger two each.
Rancho Santa Margarita-based Santa Margarita is the eighth Orange County team to win the West Regional and advance to the Little League World Series.
The most recent previous time an Orange County team advanced to the Little League World Series was in 2011 when the all-star team from Huntington Beach’s Ocean View Little League went on to become the first team from the county to win the world championship
Santa Margarita played without manager C.J. Ankrum, who received a one-game suspension Friday for violating Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its players, coaches, umpires and volunteers, according to Brian McClintock, senior director of communications, Little League Baseball & Softball.
The incident was then reviewed by the Little League International Tournament Committee, which issued the one-game suspension, McClintock said.
Ankrum will return as manager for the Little League World Series. Santa Margarita is scheduled to begin play in the Little League World Series, which is played in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Friday against the all-star team from the Walla Walla Valley Little League, the Northwest Region champion.
Santa Margarita broke a 3-3 tie with four runs in the top of the third inning. Bobby Gray led off with a homer. Johnny Gray singled two outs later, moved to third on Gamulao’s double and scored on Tommy Woods’ single. Dixie right fielder Cole Decastro made an error on Woods’ single which allowed Gamulao to score and Woods to take second.
Pinch-hitter Jonas Novek doubled in Woods with the inning’s fourth run.
Rutter increased Santa Margarita’s lead to 8-3 with a solo homer with two outs in the fourth. He opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the first.
The St. George, Utah-based Dixie cut the lead to 8-7 in the fifth on two- run homers by Mason Kesterson and Parker Andrus.
Santa Margarita, the Southern California champion, regained a four-run cushion on Joey Gray’s three-run homer in the sixth and final inning.
No. 9 hitter Danny Lawler doubled in Strenger, who doubled in the second, giving Santa Margarita a 3-0 lead.
Dixie tied the score in the bottom of the second on a three-run homer by Decastro, the No. 9 hitter in its lineup.
Bobby Gray was credited with the victory, despite allowing all seven runs (all earned) and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
He exceeded the 85-pitch limit with one out remaining. Rutter retired Jaxon Barben on a foul pop up to Strenger, Rancho Santa Margarita’s catcher, to end the game and improve its record to 16-0 in four tournaments.
–City News Service
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