Canal edges M.O.T. to force second title game

M.O.T. leadoff batter Logan Peters drives the ball in the top of the first inning against Canal. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

MIDDLETOWN — As soon as Doron Griffin smacked the ball toward right field, he liked what he saw.

“I knew it was fair,” said the Canal Little Leaguer. “I could tell off the bat when I hit it. It felt good.

“Ian (Fyfe) was on second. I knew he was to going score as soon as it dropped.”

Griffin was right on both counts as his clutch, two-run single brought home both the tying and winning runs in Canal’s 7-6 victory over host M.O.T. in the Major League baseball state championship game on Tuesday night.

Tim Whichard of M.O.T. connects on a pitch in the 2nd inning against Canal in the Little League Majors championship game Tuesday night. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The fifth straight win for Canal (5-1) forces a second game for the state title. The same two teams will play again tonight at 6 p.m. in Middletown with the state crown on the line.

M.O.T. (3-1) rallied from a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the fourth inning when Joey Santoro belted a three-run homerun to centerfield.

But Canal answered right back in to the bottom of the inning. After Shane Klapinsky and Fyfe both reached base, Grffin hit a ball down the rightfield line to bring home both runners.

M.O.T. pitcher Cole Simpson gets under an infield pop fly in the 2nd inning. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“Our kids have been battling,” said Canal manager Bryan Haupt, whose team scored a total of 35 runs in its last two games. “It’s the most resilient group of kids I’ve ever seen. And they have been smashing the ball. We felt like we had the momentum and our bats were going to carry us through.

“We were low on pitching but we knew our bats could handle it. And we have an amazing defense out there. It’s a great group of kids.”

M.O.T. didn’t go down quietly, though. It loaded the bases in both the fifth and sixth innings, but couldn’t find a way to get the game tied.

The contest ended on a line drive to second.

M.O.T. coach Jeff Simpson tries to settle down his infield after a few errors in the first inning against Canal. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

M.O.T. won its first three games by a combined 27-4. That included a 5-0 victory over Canal in its first game of the tourney.

“I told them that it wasn’t our best game and we were still right there, knocking on the door with a chance to win in the fifth and a chance to win in the sixth,” said M.O.T. manager Jeff Simpson. “We knew Canal could hit.”

Delaware has crowned a state champion in Little League’s 11-12 year-old age division every year since 1957. M.O.T. last won the state title in 2015 while Canal hasn’t won it since 2005.

M.O.T. pitcher Cole Simpson winds up for a fast ball in the first inning against Cal in the Little League Majors championship game in Middletown. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only some of the state’s Little League’s opted to have regular seasons when some of the restrictions were lifted in June. Eight leagues fielded teams in the state tournament.

No regionals or World Series are being held this year.

Also for M.O.T. on Tuesday, Cole Blanton had a two-run single with Logan Peters singling home a run in Middletown’s four-run fourth.

Canal got a two-run homer from Nolan Ritcher and RBI from Fyfe, Cam Black and Justin Bennighoff. The contest was interrupted by rain for about an hour in the second inning.

Tonight, Canal will be playing its seventh game in nine days. But Griffin thinks he and his teammates still have something left in the tank.

“Every year we’ve been so close to making it,” said Griffin. “This might be the year that we win it all. We have all the momentum.”