The Avon Eagle All-Stars won the District 3 U12 Little League championship Tuesday night 13-11 over Tallmadge. It’s the third consecutive district championship for the group, and after a third-place showing in the state tournament last year, Avon manager Kevin McNamara likes his teams’ chances this time around.
“These kids work hard in the offseason,” McNamara said. “They practice all year and buy into Avon baseball. Last year we took third and we should be one of the teams to watch out for. We need to button up some things but we’ll be ready.”
Getting to the state tournament for the third straight year was no easy task against a talented Tallmadge team that jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning with the help of Ritchie Eyre’s two-out, two-run home run.
Avon, however, had an answer — a big one — in the bottom half of the inning.
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The Eagles made Tallmadge pay early and often as they put their first six men on base. A two-run RBI double by Jack Roesch put the Eagles on the board and a Noah Linden single brought in Roesch to tie the game at 3.
But the Eagles weren’t done.
Mark Steinmetz, Aiden Dietz and Jackson Myers all drove in runs to round out the first-inning scoring for the Eagles, who flipped the three-run deficit into a 6-3 lead. Avon made it 7-3 in the second inning on Roesch’s solo shot over the left-field fence.
Avon came up big again in the bottom half of the third as Dietz sent a ball over the right-field fence for a three-run shot that made it 10-4.
A sacrifice fly by Roesch brought in Jack Reed and Avon led 11-4 entering the fourth.
Tallmadge cut into the lead in the top of the fourth. A two-run double by Zacc Markulis and a two-run home run by Andrew Ayres pulled Tallmadge to within 11-8.
But Avon had an answer again.
An RBI triple by Steinmetz and an RBI double by Dietz pushed the lead to 13-8. Both runs proved to be needed as Tallmadge came back with a run in the fifth and a pair in the sixth on Ayre’s second two-run home run of the game.
With two outs and no one on, Avon relief pitcher Cooper Docherty struck out Jason Glassie to end the game.
Afterward, McNamara cited the re-emergence of Dietz as an offensive force as a key to the Eagles’ victory. Dietz finished 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and five RBIs. Not bad for a player that wasn’t even in the starting lineup 24 hours prior to the game.
“He couldn’t even make contact for the past four games,” McNamara said. “As of last night, he wasn’t even in the starting lineup. I told my assistant that I was going to live with Dietz today. He’s been hitting in practice and I was buying into it.”
“I was in a slump and I just got excited for this game,” Dietz said. “I hit the ball really well and this is the best game I had this year. I was nervous coming up to the plate but I worked with the coach and that helped everything out.”
Both of Tallmadge’s losses in the double-elimination tournament were to Avon.
“I think we dug ourselves a big hole and they’re a great team,” Tallmadge coach Joe DiVencenzo said. “We gave them extra outs and when you’re facing a very good team like they are you can’t do that.
“I think that was probably the difference.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.