Given the suspension of athletics in the county, the Daily Journal decided to dive into our 20-year archives to bring readers some of our favorite stories over the years.
JULY 4, 2018 — Half Moon Bay All-Stars clean-up hitter Ian Armstrong came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded, no outs and his team trailing 3-2 to Menlo-Atherton.
Armstrong was just looking to hit the ball hard and drive in the game-tying run.
He did way better than that. Facing an 0-2 count, Armstrong got ahold of the third pitch of the at-bat and drove it over the fence in left field for a walk-off grand slam and a 6-3 win to give HMB the 2018 District 52 Majors (11-12 year olds) championship.
“I figured if I just hit the ball hard, maybe we score a run, maybe two,” Armstrong said, who hit six homers during the regular season. “I was stoked.”
It was dramatic ending to a dramatic game that featured a slew of spectacular pitching, some big hits, solid defense and the walk-off winner.
“[That HMB] group of kids battle,” said M-A manager Shawn Pagee.
As did M-A, which led at two different times, but could not close the deal. It touched up HMB starting pitcher Liam Harrington for a pair of runs before he was pulled in the top of the third after 39 pitches. HMB manager Don Scatena wanted to make sure Harrington was available for a potential winner-take-all game against M-A Thursday.
HMB, however, rallied for two runs in the bottom of third to tie the game at 2-all and it stayed that way into extra innings. Both teams had chances to win in regulation, but neither could take advantage due to the strong pitching.
M-A scored the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh before Armstrong’s heroics ended it in the bottom of the frame.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” Scatena said.
M-A jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first against the hard-throwing Harrington. M-A leadoff hitter Mikey McGrath, who was saddled with the loss after a stellar three-plus innings of relief, led off the game with a full-count walk. He went to second on an Oliver Kwan sacrifice bunt and scored on Kelly Rowant’s hard shot to center field.
Kwan, who hurt his knee as he tried to beat out his bunt and had to leave the game, was replaced by Calem Filipek at second base. And wouldn’t you know it? HMB leadoff hitter Ben Cleary smoked a hard grounder right Filipek, who went to his knees to snare the grounder, nearly knocking him over. He stayed with the play, however, and recorded the out at first.
Filipek then came to the plate in the top of the third and hammered a 3-2 pitch over the center-field fence to put M-A up 2-0 against a HMB team that beat it 8-2 in the winner’s bracket final earlier in the tournament.
HMB, which was making good contact but had nothing to show for it through the first two innings, finally broke through in the third. It’s first hit was a swinging bunt off the bat of Cleary, a squibber up the third base line that Cleary beat out and went to second on an overthrow.
He would have scored regardless of where he was on the basepaths as two batters later, Harrington smashed a two-run bomb over the fence in left field to tie the game at 2.
Both teams then wasted bases-loaded opportunities. In the top of the fourth, M-A’s James Gray walked and Davonnie Bower singled. After a strikeout, Shawny Pagee walked to load the bases.
Scatena turned to Cleary to relieve Gavin Glyan and he got a strikeout for the second out and then struck out the next batter.
But the HMB catcher dropped the third strike. As the batter hustled down the first-base line, Armstrong, who was also HMB’s starting catcher, grabbed the lose ball and tagged out the base runner coming from third base to get out of the jam.
“When the bases were loaded, we needed two strikeouts and [Cleary] is the guy,” Scatena said.
HMB loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth, also with one out, but McGrath wiggled out of trouble, getting back-to-back strikeouts, including the final out looking.
“[McGrath] did a great job,” Manager Pagee said.
M-A retook the lead in the top of seventh in similar fashion as its run in the first. With two outs, McGrath reached base for the third time in the game with a single to left. He moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a Filipek double to the fence in center.
That only set up Armstrong’s heroics in the bottom of the inning.
“(Hitting that home) brought me back to my first (Little League) homer. ‘Am I dreaming?’” Armstrong said after he raced around the bases.
“I wanted to get all the way around so I could celebrate with my teammates.”