Cardinals take title

Steamboat minor team defeats Cubs, 13-8

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Cardinals coach Gil Ramirez gave the classic underdog speech.

Before the Little League minor tournament opened this week, Ramirez told the 8- to 10-year-old boys on the Cardinals team that even though they didn't finish atop the regular season standings, they could win the city championship.

After two wins earlier in the tournament, including an upset of the top-seeded Athletics, the Cardinals found themselves throwing their gloves in the air and themselves at each other in celebration after defeating the Cubs, 13-8, on Friday night to win the minor league tournament.

"We played as a team," centerfielder Nathan Parks said.

Actually, the Cardinals did pretty much everything as a team Friday night -- from the nonstop cheering that started in the top of the first to the post-game interview session on the third-base line.

"Everyone contributed," Ramirez said.

The Cardinals scored at least one run in four of the five innings, taking the lead for good when Charles Toye scored on Jake Miller's single in the top of the second.

It appeared as if the game was going to be close through the first 1 1/2 innings when the teams exchanged the lead early on. The Cardinals scored once in the top of the first, only to have the Cubs respond in the bottom half of the inning with four runs highlighted by RBI hits from Daniel Sessions, Kit Croop and Robby Davis.

The Cardinals jumped back ahead, 6-4, at the end of the second, but Bryson Campbell struck out two and threw out Croop at first to end the second, giving the Cardinals a chance to pull away.

And they took it, adding five runs in the top of the third off three-straight hits from Miller, Campbell and Tanner Heil. The Cubs scored one in the third inning but waited until the bottom of the fourth to show some life.

Kyle Cordell led off with a single, and Cutter Pasternak drove him in two batters later. Pasternak and Daniel Sessions switched spots on Session's RBI double. Croop followed Session's hit with a line drive to right center but was thrown out trying to get to second.

Miller got Melvin to pop up to the mound to end the inning and threat.

Croop sent the Cardinals down in order in the top of the fifth, but Miller struck out three batters in the fifth to give his team the win.

During the regular season, the Cardinals players said they were allowed to play where they wanted to so they could experiment with different positions. But when the tournament started, Campbell said, they all found the spots they were most comfortable in and stayed there.

It showed on defense, as the team made just one error in five innings played.

But many of the Cardinals said individual improvements helped the team get better, as well. Brad Ryan said his "stretches at first got better."

Miller said the pitching improved during the tournament.

"These three games were the best they've played all year," Ramirez said.

The city's Little League tournaments continue at 10 a.m. today at Emerald Park with the major classification final for players ages 11 and 12. Unlike Friday's minor final, there is no underdog. The Twins and Rockies tied for the regular season title and in the three games they played earlier this summer, each team won once. The other ended in a tie.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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