CUYAHOGA FALLS — Connor O’Malley got Avon’s offense going, but it was the defense that stole the show.
After committing three errors against Tallmadge on July 7, the U12 Little League baseball team played a nearly clean game Sunday night, not committing an error until the final inning when its 9-1 victory over Cuyahoga Falls North was well in hand.
Avon advances to the District 3 championship and a rematch with Tallmadge in Tallmadge on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Since Tallmadge is undefeated, Avon would need to win to force a rematch in Avon on Wednesday.
“The boys came back and really turned the game around,” Avon coach Michael Love said. “The defense today was key. They obviously hit the ball well, but we knew Cuyahoga Falls North was going to be a really tough team and we had to play sound defense to keep the score down and they executed tonight.
“They were thinking, they were hustling, they executed.”
Avon got things rolling in the top of the first when Matt South drew a walk and O’Malley sent a pitch towering over the center field wall for a quick 2-0 lead. Avon added another run and ultimately never trailed.
“Cuyahoga Falls is a great team and I just got good bat on the ball and was fortunate that it went over,” O’Malley said.
In the second, Avon watched Cuyahoga Falls North commit four of its seven errors en route to five runs, two of them unearned.
Ryan Jones led off the inning with a hit, then Austin Roman reached on an error. Both runners scored without the ball being put in play — advancing around the diamond on three passed balls.
Nick Nowakowski later drove in O’Malley — who reached on a liner up the middle — and Zach Maxey drove in Jack Walsh — who walked — with a sacrifice fly.
“We obviously came into the game energized, but (O’Malley’s) hit in the first inning really brought the team to life right out of the box,” Love said.
Just in case an 8-1 lead wasn’t enough, Avon added another in the third. Charlie Ellis led off with a double and South drove him in with a single.
Avon’s three pitchers split the six innings evenly and combined to allow just five hits, five walks, one run and struck out five. Walsh got the start, and allowed the only run. Maxey worked the middle two innings and Nowakowski closed things out — both struck out two and allowed two hits with Maxey walking two.
The U12 team hopes it can duplicate this performance in the rematch against Tallmadge.
“We all want to defend our title from last year and some new guys on the team have really stepped up and showed what they can do,” O’Malley said.
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.