A sharp pitchers duel between two young North Shore hurlers ended with Lynn Valley Little League scratching out a 2-1 win over Forest Hills to win the District 5 Majors championship game played Monday night at North Vancouver's Chris Zuehlke Memorial Park.
Lynn Valley scored the winning run in the bottom of the fifth hen Markus Bratsberg drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second n a chopped ball that stalled in the infield grass and then came ome on a throwing error as Forest Hills tried to turn a double lay.
In the top of the sixth, the final inning of a Little League game, Lynn Valley starter Kurtis Toikka capped off a four hit, four strikeout, one run gem with a one-two-three inning to seal the win.
"I knew it would be a tight game. We just got lucky," said Lynn Valley manager Jason Odegard as his team posed for pictures with their new championship banner. "You build up to something like that and the kids progressively got stronger mentally in this tournament and it showed at the end - they showed composure and found a way to win."
The victory earned Lynn Valley a berth in next week's provincial championships in Victoria with a spot in the national championships, hosted this year at that same Zuehlke Park, on the line.
Toikka wasn't the only pitcher throwing smoke on the night. Forest Hills starter Indigo Diaz also tossed a complete game for his squad, firing 77 pitches in five innings while giving up five hits, three walks and striking out four.
"Both pitchers threw absolutely well," said Odegard. "It was a pitcher's duel and our pitcher out-dueled theirs."
Toikka also contributed at the plate, driving in Braydon Roman in the first inning with a double over the rightfielder's head, one of the hardest hit balls of the day.
"Kurtis is one of those kids you can rely on in any situation. He never breaks under pressure, he just gets up there and does his job," said Odegard. "He's Mr. Composure."
Toikka's effort was perfectly measured, his 85th pitch ending the game. Under the rules of the competition, pitchers are removed from the game once their pitch count exceeds 85.
"He just pitched his fastball and curveball today and pitched it well," said Odegard.
Both teams also showed off some nifty glove work to keep the score low.
"They made some great plays and if they did make an error
they bounced right back, and that's all you can ask for from 11and 12-year-olds," said Odegard.
The win earned Lynn Valley revenge after they were pounded 11-0 by Forest Hills in round robin play earlier in the tournament. Forest Hills, managed by Omar Diaz, reached the district final with a 4-0 semifinal win over Cypress Park while Lynn Valley squeaked by North Van Central 2-1 in their semifinal.
The boys from Lynn Valley are now looking ahead to provincials and the possibility of coming home to play for a national title and even a shot at the famous Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
"That's their goal. We're not looking past the B.C.'s but our goal is get to the Canadians and then to Williamsport," said Odegard.
North Vancouver's Mount Seymour Little League has already earned a spot at nationals as the host team. Seymour racked up a perfect 6-0 record in round robin play at the district tournament, outscoring their opponents 55-10 in the process. They did not compete in the playoff round because their place at nationals was secured two years ago when they won the district title for the 9-10 age group.
The national tournament is scheduled for Aug. 6-13 in North Vancouver.