Northwest 7- and 8-year-old All-Stars win district championship

TAYLOR — The 7- and 8-year-old all-stars from the Taylor Northwest Little League have emerged as champions of a 15-team season-ending district tournament.
The tourney, held June 20 through 28 in Lincoln Park, saw Taylor Northwest win seven of its eight games, including the 5-3 championship game over Taylor Northeast.
The title in the 7- and 8-year-old division was the fourth in a row for teams from Taylor Northwest and marked the seventh time in nine years that its teams have won a district championship in the age group. In the other two years, 2001 and 2005, Taylor Northwest teams were runners-up to Huron and Brownstown, respectively.
Manager Joe Groat said this year’s rise was significant, since he had only one returning player from the 2008 championship team. This year’s team included three 7-year-olds who will have a chance to return to defend the title next year.
In the double-elimination format, a team is knocked out of the tournament when it receives its second loss.
In the tournament, Taylor Northwest played on eight of the tournament’s nine days. The all-stars:
• Defeated Redford North Central, 14-2 on June 20.
• Defeated Brownstown 4-3 on June 21.
• Lost to Redford American 5-1 on June 23.
• Defeated Huron 13-3 on June 24.
• Defeated Brownstown 8-2 on June 25.
• Defeated Redford American in a rematch 6-3 in eight innings (a regulation Little League game is six innings) on June 26.
• Defeated previously unbeaten Taylor Northeast 3-1 on June 27.
• Defeated Taylor Northeast for the championship 5-3.
Also in the tournament were Taylor North Central, Taylor South, Romulus, Melvindale, Lincoln Park North, Lincoln Park American, Flat Rock, Rosedale, Southgate and Redford North Central. Groat noted that both the June 26 and June 28 were “intense pitchers duels through five innings.” Even though Taylor Northwest outscored opponents 54-22 over the eight games, it was the depth of the team’s pitching staff in those two key games that proved to be the deciding factor in the tournament.
A key inning in the championship game was the top of the sixth. With Northwest batting, the game tied at 3-3, two outs and two runners on base, Ben Clark – Northwest’s cleanup hitter – was walked intentionally to load the bases. However, fifth hitter Austin Hall ripped the first pitch he faced into left-center field to score two runs and give Northwest a 5-3 lead.
Charlie Naylor, who pitched well for Northwest during the entire tournament, struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth to seal the victory.
Other players on the team are Josh Odor, Allen Woodward, Eric Smith, Sammy DiCicco, Matt Bzura, Brent Wright, Nasir Frederick and Trevor Thomas. Coaches are Sam DiCicco and Daryl Thomas.
The win was extra special for the Groat family. The Lincoln Park North field dugouts and announcers booth were built 40 years ago when Joe Groat Sr. (father of Manager Joe Groat and grandfather of player Matt Groat) was league president at Lincoln Park North in the late 1960s. Joe Sr. died from cancer in April 2008.
The tournament marked the first time any of Joe Sr.’s grandchildren had a chance to play on the field.
“It felt like he was here with us,” Joe Jr. said, “just like the movie ‘Angels in the Outfield.’ It felt like having home field
advantage throughout the tournament.”