San Carlos Little League’s ‘Man of Steele’ stepped onto the championship stage and showed he is indeed bulletproof.
Tyler Steele had never pitched a complete game in his life, but the left-handed pitcher changed that Tuesday night in the District 52 Little League Majors Superbowl championship game at Sea Cloud Park.
The 12-year-old southpaw came within one strike of firing a no-hitter, ultimately firing a two-hit shutout to lead San Carlos to a 7-0 victory over San Mateo American. Steele also starred at the plate, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“I felt a little nervous getting two outs (in the last inning),” Steele said. “I started getting hyped up.”
Steele was nervous because he was anticipating the championship celebration. His San Carlos teammates did not let him down when catcher Tyler Castricone threw out a runner on the base paths to end the game. San Carlos’ jovial players converged on the infield to celebrate.
“It’s huge,” San Carlos manager Steve Magner said. “It’s great for San Carlos. And having our District 52 (Little League All-Star) team out here cheering them on, that’s great.”
As a pitcher with the San Carlos Impact tournament team, the furthest Steele had worked into a game was five innings.
He proved the workhorse of the San Carlos Superbowl squad, though, totaling 9 2/3 innings through four tournament wins. He worked 3 2/3 innings Sunday’s 14-0 win over Pacifica American, remarkably staying under the 35-pitch limit and allowing him to max out at the full allotment of 85 pitches just two days later.
After allowing just three base runners through the first five innings Tuesday — on two walks and an error — Steele recorded the first two outs of the sixth and final inning, then got two quick strikes against San Mateo’s Boston Williams. When Williams got a low fastball in his wheelhouse, though, he lined a clean single to left-center to break up the no-hitter.
“I was just trying to get on base,” Williams said, “and when it was my last strike, I was just saying: ‘I need a hit to get a rally started.’”
Christopher Chu followed with a single to right to prolong the rally, but that was all Steele would surrender. He finished the night with three strikeouts, and fielded his position adeptly, recording four fielding assists and two putouts.
“He’s a great fielding pitcher and he’s unfazed,” Magner said. “He’s kind of a steady Eddie.”
The most critical defensive play by the San Carlos ace came in the second inning. With San Mateo’s Cole Sloan on third base and two outs, Ben Gilfether topped a swinging bunt between the mound and the plate. Steele pounced, fielding the ball with his back to first base then turning and firing a strike to first baseman Dylan Karmin.
Steele cited two reasons for his smooth fielding skills.
“Playing for a long time,” Steele said, “and having Dylan at first base, I know I can trust him.”
San Mateo’s pitching was the cornerstone of their Superbowl run as well. Through their first two games, San Mateo got 11 2/3 innings from its starting pitchers. After the team received a first-round bye, Mason Miller went six innings in Sunday’s opener to take a no-decision in an extra-inning win. In Monday’s semifinals, Cody Mulyneux worked 5 2/3 innings to get the win.
Tuesday’s championship starter, Taj Apparo, was solid through two innings for San Mateo. San Carlos produced a run in the first when Grant Goetz drove in Steele for a 1-0 lead. Apparo retired the next five batters he faced. But in the third, San Carlos sent 10 batters to the plate to knock Apparo out of the game with a six-run rally.
The inning started with some controversy as San Carlos batted out of order. It turned out to be a paperwork issue as the lineup card submitted by Magner for San Carlos was not the same lineup card given to the home plate umpire from the scorer’s table, but was instead an additional lineup card copied out by a tournament representative, and in doing so the No. 9 batter David Raymond was accidently omitted from the 12-player continuous lineup batting order.
Raymond batted, and walked, but was called out after San Mateo American manager Blake Molyneux appealed. The appeal took several minutes to hash out, leaving Apparo standing on the mound the entire time. While he did receive warm-up pitches before facing the next batter, he failed to record another out, allowing six straight San Carlos batters to reach base before Blake Molyneux went to the bullpen.
“I don’t know (if the timeout affected him),” Molyneux said. “I can’t say yes or no. But our defense was lacking. It kind of fell apart.”
A fielding error and two fielder’s choices on non-out plays prolonged the inning. But the San Carlos bats also produced four hits in the frame. Carter Dalke and Raymond started the rally with back-to-back knocks — Raymond was allowed to bat again as he was added in the No. 12 spot at the end of the continuous batting order — followed by a two-run single by Steele, and an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Goetz. Clayton Magner followed with an RBI single.
San Carlos totaled 41 runs through four wins in the tournament. After a 12-1 win over Palo Alto and a 14-0 win over Pacifica American, San Carlos won a thriller over Alpine in the semifinals with an 8-7 walk-off. Gavin Reynick delivered the game-winner Monday with a two-run single to score Goetz with the tying run and Karmin with the game-winner.
The Superbowl tournaments are a precursor to the District 52 Little League All-Star tournaments beginning Saturday. Players from the Superbowl rosters are ineligible to play for their District teams. It is a one-off tournament signaling the end of the road for the Little League season for Superbowl players.
The Majors division consists on 11-12 year olds. There is also a Minors Superbowl tournament for 9-10 year olds. San Mateo American won the Minors Superbowl championship Monday with a 9-1 victory over Belmont-Redwood Shores.