In a tense extra inning contest, the National League Cardinals beat the American League Indians, 7-6, to win the Santa Monica Little League championship on June 7 at Memorial Park.Both teams had struggled to reach the big game. The Indians, led by manager Matt Steinhaus, had played in the championship game last year and lost to the Giants in extra innings. This year they finished behind the Mariners and Angels but fought their way through the playoffs to reach the final game of the season.The Cardinals had posted a record of 3-13 in 2007. New coaches Steve Miller and Scott Stahler took them from worst to first in 2008 with a surprise 12-4 season.The Cardinals started the game quickly when catcher Daniel Buschinger led off with a home run that landed on Olympic Blvd. But Indians pitcher River Moore settled down and gave up no more runs until the third inning, with help from brilliant defensive plays by Chris Tenn in left field and Taylor Mackall at shortstop. Cardinals pitcher Eli Bieber was in and out of trouble in the first two innings but let nothing cross the plate.In the third inning, the Cardinals got hot. Burschinger led off with a single, Tom Fuller was on with an error that resulted in Burschinger scoring and Fuller winding up on third. Jules Stahler hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Fuller, then Evan Miller singled, Gary Dixon walked, Eli Bieber doubled, Dakota Schey doubled, and by the time JJ Dunn walked the bases were loaded with two outs and four runs had crossed the plate.The Indians brought in Kenny Norton to face Burschinger, who popped out to the pitcher for the third out, but the Cardinals had taken a 5-0 lead.The Indians responded in the bottom of the third. Moore’s lead-off single was followed by Mackall’s single and Noco Basile’s double. Back to back errors led to a couple of unearned runs but the inning came to a sudden end when, after a passed ball, Norton was caught in a rundown trying to steal home, leaving the Cardinals with a 5-4 lead.Fuller led off with a single, stole his way to third and was brought home by Harrison Baum’s infield out. But with the score now 6-4 the Indians started hitting, putting together a two-out rally. Mark Fuller, Tom’s twin brother, came in to close out the inning, but the damage had been done and the score was 6-6.It remained tied at the end of six innings, the end of regulation play. These two teams were going to play extra innings to decide the championship. The Indians had to like their chances, facing extra innings for the second year in a row. They were battle-tough, having played eight innings last year. Norton continued to pitch brilliantly, shutting out the Cards in the seventh inning while Evan Miller, who had come in to relieve, was magnificent on the mound, stopping the Indians cold.Lowell Schipper made a brilliant, diving catch in right field in the bottom of the seventh to rob Kostas Garcia of extra bases and carry the game into the eighth inning.By the top of the eighth it was clear that Norton was tired. He had thrown over 70 pitches, but he was still in there, still battling. Stahler singled, Baum walked, Miller walked and the Cardinals had the bases loaded with nobody out. After a long at-bat Schipper popped up to first base.The Indians brought in Cole Holland to pitch to Gary Dixon, and Holland was terrific, getting Dixon out. Schey came to the plate and showed great patience, walking on four straight pitches to bring home the lead run.In the bottom of the eighth Cards’ pitcher Evan Miller went back to work, getting the first two hitters on a line drive snagged by Dunn at second base and a grounder to Baun at first.However, Kostas Garcia doubled down the third base line and the pressure was on. But Miller struck out the final hitter and the Cardinals won, 7-6.
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