The Little League Rookie Division Tigers and Yankees played a thriller on May 21st. The Tigers’ stellar defense in the first inning held the Yankees to only one run. However the Yankees were an offensive machine after that, scoring the maximum six runs, inning after inning. The Tigers were down by nine going into their last at-bats. But unlimited scoring is allowed in the sixth inning and ten Tigers crossed home plate to nip the Yankees 27-26.

Tigers’ assistant Andy Thiess said that Mikey Racanelli and Marvion Martin delivered the big blows in the final frame. The Tigers were still one run down, with two outs, when both tripled. Marvion knocked in the winning run.

Rookie games tend to be high-scoring affairs, since batters are hitting off a tee and there are no strikeouts. “Defense is the difference,” Thiesse said, “Getting down for ground balls and making the throw to first is critical.” It’s also important for batters to have power at the plate. “They develop the ability to hit well and the power to hit hard grounders.”

Prior to the game, a coach was instructing his fielders to, “Make sure your glove is touching the dirt. A dirty glove is a happy glove.” The Tigers took this advice to heart, scooping groundballs and recording outs at first four times during the first three innings. The Yankees also played some tough defense, holding the Tigers scoreless in the second. Dillon Tolliver tagged Mason Carroll at third to keep the Tigers from threatening.

Meanwhile, the Yankees showed power at the plate, with Morgan Reckamp hitting a drive over the centerfielder’s head. Jake Fini, Matt Mathey and Alex McClendon were also standouts, scoring runs in their first two at bats.

Coaches and parents kept up a steady stream of advice and encouragement. “You don’t have your mitt,” a mom reminded one fielder. “When I say tag, I mean touch the runner with the ball,” said a coach to his third basemen. There was also the uncommon sight of a centerfielder stretched out on the grass, while his fellow fielders tossed the ball around. But, like in any baseball game, The Yankees and Tigers demonstrated that defense and clutch-hitting win games. Especially, when there’s no pitching.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.