This story was updated July 23 at 1:30 p.m.
For the second year in a row, all three Fairfax County district champions made it to the semifinals of the Virginia Little League Majors state tournament on Monday. But for the second year in a row, it was the one team from Richmond that walked away with the championship trophy.
The Tuckahoe American All-Stars defended their state title with a 5-2 win in Bridgewater Tuesday, using three go-ahead runs in the top of the sixth inning to stave off an SYA West squad that came in with a 140-22 run advantage over its previous 11 games.
“The only thing you can say to yourself is, ‘Props to the other guys.’ That’s all you can say,” SYA West manager John Leo said. “You’re playing at such a high level of little league and these are the two best teams in the state of Virginia. Unfortunately, someone has to lose.”
Tuckahoe American’s 11-3 win over West Springfield American last summer marked the first time in five years that a team from outside Fairfax County walked away with the state title. Their win over SYA West on Tuesday sends them back to Warner Robbins, Georgia, where they will represent Virginia in next week’s Southeastern Regional.
Tuckahoe slid past the Great Falls All-Stars 12-8 in Monday night’s semifinal and preserved their top pitcher, Liam Deegan, in the process. Standing 6-feet-2-inches, Deegan overpowered SYA West’s batting order Tuesday, giving up only three hits in 87 pitches.
Deegan got the scoring started in the first inning with a solo home run, followed by another solo shot that put Tuckahoe up 2-0 after two. SYA West tied it at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, but the District 5 champions responded with a two-run homer and another solo shot in the top of the sixth.
A potential comeback for SYA West looked promising in the final frame. Deegan was taken out of the game after hitting the pitch limit, and SYA West had a man on first base with one out. But the next hit resulted in a double play that ended the game.
“That’s baseball,” Leo said. “It’s just the way it happened. Our kids fought hard. There were no errors today. It was a great ball game.”
Despite all the long balls, SYA West’s Billy Hoad pitched an exceptional game, tossing 60 strikes and 11 strikeouts in 89 pitches. He surrendered only seven hits against a Tuckahoe unit that entered with a tournament-high 76 runs in five games.
The SYA West All-Stars could also take pride in winning their first District 10 title at the 11-12 level since 2006. It also marked the first time SYA West has ever won the 11-12 title and 10-11 title in the same year.
SYA West got to Tuesday’s final by beating District 9 champion West Springfield American 10-3 in the semifinals Monday night. After clawing their way into the state tournament with back-to-back wins over Fort Hunt last week, the West Springfield American All-Stars suddenly found themselves crushing everyone in their path over the weekend. They outscored their first four opponents 52-5 before running into an equally hot SYA West group.
“SYA is a great hitting team. They did a great job of putting the ball in play,” West Springfield American manager Scott Gudely said. “And we had trouble hitting Daniel Leo. They’re a good team, and we have no regrets.”
The Great Falls All-Stars took a slightly thornier path to Monday’s semifinals. After going up 7-1, the District 4 champions found themselves clinging to a narrow 8-7 lead over Loudoun South on Sunday. With two outs and runners on first and third, William Bean came in and closed them out to put Great Falls in the quarterfinals. They then trailed Green Run 6-1 before Nicholas Faili entered in the second inning. Faili didn’t give up any runs the rest of the way, and Great Falls rattled off nine unanswered runs to win, 10-6.
“It was amazing,” Great Falls manager Steve Baskin said. “We had so many gutty performances from these kids. They never gave up.”
The original version of this story incorrectly stated the number of hits given up by Tuckahoe pitcher Liam Deegan.