Talent-wise, Santa Fe Little League’s 12-year-old all-stars were head and shoulders above the rest of District 14 this summer. But when Calvin Van Horn’s on the hill, they’re somewhere higher than that.
Van Horn tinkered with a perfect game Monday night in leading Santa Fe to the coveted District 14 championship with an 8-2 victory over NASA Little League at John Paul Field.
Van Horn didn’t allow a baserunner for five of the six innings, losing the perfect game in the fifth when NASA, out of the blue, pieced together three straight hits, scored both of their runs and cut a Santa Fe advantage in half.
Van Horn struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter.
“They hit the ball really good. They played very well. It just wasn’t our day. They had their star pitcher, Van Horn, up. We struggled to hit the ball. Good pitching beats good hitting,” said NASA all-star and losing pitcher Tanner Richards, who finished with an 0-2 record against Van Horn during the eight-day District 14 tournament.
Santa Fe snaps the Bay Area’s four-year streak of winning the District 14 crown. Until Monday night, Dickinson, in 2017, had been the last squad outside of League City or NASA to win the title. League City National won it in 2019 and NASA the last two years, although the 2020 tournament has an asterisk by it since not all the leagues participated and it was just two days due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Santa Fe, now one step closer to the famous Little League World Series in Pennsylvania, prepares for the Section 3 Tournament that so far will have District 15 champion Pearland and District 25 winner Heights Norhill. Just District 16 remains to be filled and that will happen on Wednesday.
Look for Santa Fe to be a good representative because its fundamentals are strong. But when you have a guy pitching perfect baseball, kids don’t need to show how strong their fundamentals are. If a roster can field and catch fly balls, it’s essentially all over.
Richards surrendered two runs in the second, one in the third and one in the fourth. Three of those scores were unearned. That’s how much NASA’s defense struggled Monday night.
Then a four-run fifth started with a dropped third strike and a hit batter. Both of those gifts to first base scored thanks to a Max Feimster triple on a ball that whizzed by the third-base bag at 107 mph.
Speaking of Feimster, he scored the only earned run through the opening four innings. He singled, went to second base on another single, motored to third on a ground out and came home on a Brayden Fritch ground out.
NASA Manager Mike Howard, who saw a three-game winning streak snapped and the guys finishing with a 4-2 ledger, took solace in the fact that they forced Van Horn to throw over 80 pitches and they trimmed the number of strikeouts by 25 percent compared to the first meeting with Van Horn.
“You gotta play sharp and we didn’t play sharp. I was super impressed at how the boys handled the velocity. When he threw fastballs, we fouled off a lot of balls and got his pitch count up. He’s a really good pitcher, no doubt about it,” Howard said.
FINAL DISTRICT 14 MAJOR STANDINGS
Santa Fe Little League 4-0
NASA Area Little League 4-2
Iceland Little League 2-2
League City Little League 2-2
Bayside Little League 1-2
Baytown Little League 1-2
Dickinson Little League 0-2
Texas City Little League 0-2