The rain that caused a day's postponement of the Martinez-Evans Little League championship game couldn't douse the fire inside the Cardinals driving them to vindicate an early-season loss to their arch-rival Royals.
The league's Majors Division Cardinals asserted their dominance early and never let up Saturday, taking their second striaght league championship with a 13-2 win over the Royals.
The Cardinals (16-1) didn't let the rain, which washed out play on Friday, keep them from notching their third league championship in four years. After holding the Royals (14-3) scoreless in the top of the first inning, the Cardinals struck for three runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Cole Vertell drove in two with a one-out, bases-loaded single and Davis Starnes plated another run with a sacrifice fly to right field for a 3-0 lead.
Cardinals Manager Tommy Starnes credited his team's experience and intensity for pulling out the win.
"The thing I told them was we haven't had a team beat us twice in one year in a long time," Starnes said, referring to his team's 3-1 loss to the Royals earlier in the year. "We penciled in this day and prepared for it."
Cole Vertell and the Cardinals struck again in the third with a two-run home run to center field for a 5-0 lead. Later in the inning, Bryce Huckabee followed with an RBI single and the Cardinals led 6-0.
After the Royals replaced starting pitcher Turner Spratling, the Cardinals plated four more runs in the third, including a two-run single by shortstop Casey Rowland.
The 10 early runs were more than enough for starting pitcher Connor Vertell, Cole's twin brother, who gave up only two runs in 51/3 innings.
The Royals finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth with a two out, two-run single by Austin Leverett to make it 10-2. But they would get no closer, as the Cardinals added a run in the bottom of the fourth and two in the fifth for a 13-2 victory.
Starnes said parent support helped the team achieve a lot in the past four years and remain intact. The team did not lose a single player to traveling teams in the past four seasons, he said.
The five players who have played with the Cardinals for the past four years - Casey Rowland, Connor Vertell, Cole Vertell, Devin Hagen and Davis Starnes - recorded three championships en route to a combined 60-7 record, their manager said.
The win was especially sweet for Devin, the team's catcher, whose father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Buddy Hagen, missed last year's championship game during a tour of duty in Iraq. Hagen returned from deployment June 12.
A former coach of the team, Hagen said it was the best Father's Day present he could receive.
"I can't be any more prouder of my son, he's done everything asked of him and more," he said. On having his dad back to see him play, Devin said, "It's the best feeling in the world."
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