Gritty Maples show Classic form

Most kids and parents were getting ready for the night’s trick or treating two Saturdays ago, but there were a select few who were preparing for another spectacular event that day.

It was the Cayman Classic Little League tournament, the first such baseball tournament of its kind held here.

It pitted three teams against one another on the turf fields at the Field of Dreams baseball complex for the chance to take home a championship title for their sponsor.

The three major sponsors that made this event possible were Maples, Al La Kebab and Sunset House.

Their commitment enabled the Cayman Islands Little League Association to put on a first-class tournament that was as action-packed as any major league World Series.

The breathtaking plays and photo-finish calls by the home-plate umpires added up to a spectacular display.

The stakes were high for the winning team. Not only would the players have bragging rights, but they could also possibly be selected for the Cayman Islands Little League travel team scheduled to compete in a United States tournament in July.

‘The Cayman Classic is hopefully the beginning of a series of future Little League tournaments to be held at the Field of Dreams this coming year,’ said tournament organizer Dayne Brady.

‘It is a sure way to attract young players to help grow a programme that offers a safe place where children can play baseball while also learning life lessons that will stay with them into adulthood.’

The first game was between Al La Kebab and Sunset House, and what an exciting one it was.

Sam Whitney of Al La Kebab recorded three strikeouts and a walk in the first inning to send Sunset House back to the dugout with no runs and no hits.

Mark Westin was the starting pitcher for Sunset House. His wicked side-arm delivery enabled him to strike out three batters as well, but not before Al La Kebab hammered out three runs.

Sunset House and big Mark Westin were able to hold Al La Kebab to just four runs while they battled back over the next three innings, but they fell short by one run and Al La Kebab held on for the win 4-3.

The next game was between Sunset House and Maples, and this is where the troubles began for Sunset House. Maples jumped on Sunset House starter Finnigan Huffington early with two runs in the first, but the real story was Maples pitcher Pablo Bertran, who threw a brilliant 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Closer DJ Scott preserved the two-hit shutout, and Maples prevailed 4-0.

The third game was a duel between unbeaten Maples and Al La Kebab that featured an exciting battle to the finish.

DJ started for Maples and kept Al La Kebab scoreless in the first before hitting a leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning to give his team a 1-0 lead off Al La Kebab starter Connor Woods.

Al La Kebab responded with three runs over the next two innings with two RBI singles by Brayton Chavez, scoring Andrew Parsons on both hits, and an RBI double by Alisha Forbes.

James Green pitched superbly in the later innings for Maples, giving up only one run in relief. Unfortunately, Maples’ bats could not keep up with Al La Kebab, who won 3-2. This was an intense game where the players really showed their skills.

The stage was then set for the championship showdown between Maples and Al La Kebab. As the big game was about to take place, it was a pure spectacle to see the coaches making final preparations and players warming up. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement.

The players displayed tremendous skills and the coaches showed the fans what Little League baseball was all about.

There were way too many spectacular plays to mention. However, one that definitely changed the game’s outcome occurred in the bottom of the fourth inning with Al La Kebab batting and the tying run on third.

Maples pitcher DJ threw a passed ball that went past catcher Daniel Reid. The runner left third immediately, and it was a race between the pitcher and the runner for home plate.

Reid retrieved the ball and made a perfect toss to DJ, inches from the ground, to tag the runner as she slid into home for the second out. Andrew Parsons then struck out to end the game with Maples winning 3-2.

‘The tournament was a huge success with some of the best ball playing we have seen here in the Cayman Islands,’ said Brady. ‘The fans stayed on the edge of their seats all day and it was big fun for everyone.’