Top Row: Sean Lee, Bailey Shen, Will Meeks, Will Covey and Ryan Nguyen. Bottom row: Brandon Lustig, Nick Patton, Brandon Williams, Michael Gruppie, Michael Easter, Matt McIntyre and Carter Jones. -Courtesy Photo
In the 54-year history of the Arcadia Little American League, many talented players and winning teams have displayed their talents at Windsor Field, winning championships and individual honors along the way. But until this season, no team according to league and local records was able to complete a regular season without a single loss.
Then came the AALL Minors Angels.
On May 5, 2012, the Angels did what no AALL (or Coast Little League as it was formerly known) team before them could accomplish: they defeated the AALL Rangers, 7-2, to finish an unprecedented and undefeated regular season. That victory gave the Angels a record of 15-0-1, allowing them to easily finish in first place, five and a half games ahead of a very good Indians team.
As was the case much of the year, the Angels were led against the Rangers by the “Mike and Mike” team of Michael Gruppie and Mikey Easter, both making their minors debuts in 2012. Gruppie was the winning pitcher, improving his season record to 6-0, by throwing five strong innings while allowing only one run. He struck out a season-high nine batters before giving way to Easter in the sixth. Gruppie was 2 for 3 at the plate, including a booming RBI double,
to complete the regular season by hitting safely in every game. Easter was 1 for 2 including his third triple. Third baseman Brandon Lustig also starred, going 3 for 3 with a triple and three runs batted in, and Nick Patton, Bailey Shen, Will Meeks and Sean Lee all had two hits as the Angels collected a season-high 17.
The Angels finished the regular season averaging more than 10 runs per game, while their pitching staff that included Lustig and another newcomer to Minors, Matt McIntire, allowed about four runs per game. Playing perhaps against some of the best AALL minors competition in years, the Angeles were 6-0 within their own league, an impressive 4-0 against always strong Santa Anita Little League teams, 3-0 against Arcadia National teams and 3-0-1 against Sierra Madre team. It was the Sierra Madre Brewers who left the only blemish on the Angels record on March 5, 2012, when the teams battled to a 10-10 tie. But while most ties are not satisfying, this one was not particularly disappointing to Angel Manager Don McIntire, as his team rallied from a early 9-0 deficit to not only avoid a loss, but very nearly win it as darkness forced early completion of the game.
Highlights in a season filled with them included a 9-1 win over the Rangers on March 7 behind the strong pitching of Brandon Lustig, a 15-4 over the Santa Anita Red Sox March 12 where Lustig knocked in four runs and McIntire threw three and a third stellar innings, a 9-4 win over the Indians on March 31 in a battle of unbeaten teams at the time where Gruppie got the win on the mound and helped his own cause with two hits and two RBI, s 15-5 victory over the Sierra Madre Red Sox on March 11 where Easter was the winning pitcher and was a perfect 3 for 3 with four runs batted in at the plate, a second victory over the Indians on April 14 (by a score of 11-4) where the Indians got four quick runs but Gruppie came in to throw three and one third shutout innings in relief while knocking in three runs, and a 10-3 win against the Brewers on April 23 at Baldwin Stocker school that might have been the team’s most complete peformance in a great overall season.
In that game against an opponent that had won four straigtht to get back in the pennant race, Gruppie threw five no-hit, shutout innings and knocked in four runs. The Angels also shined on defense with Lustig starting a double play with a terrific catch in center field, and Will Covey and Gruppie combining to throw Daniel Gaspar out at the plate on an amazing relay play late in the game.
Gruppie, Easter, Shen, Lustig and Brandon Williams all batted at least .500 with Gruppie and Easter leading the team with averages of .634 and .568, respectively. Gruppie lpaced the team in most individual offensive categories including hits, runs scored, triples, RBIs and stolen bases, while Easter led the team in doubles, and had the fewest strikeouts (1), all the more remarkable given he is 8 years old. Shen was third on the team with 24 steals, Lustig second in RBIs with 19 and Nick Patton came on strong to finished wit a .407 average. Gruppie, Easter and Lustig hit the Angels’ only home runs of the season.
Easter also made several highlight reel defensive plays during the season, playing equally well at first base, catcher and shortstop, always demonstrating incredible hustle, effort and grit that make him a special player.
Lustig was 4-0 on the mound with two saves, Easter 2-0 with three saves, McIntire 2-0 and Shen got a pitching victory.Other contributors to the Angels success were outfielder Ryan Nguyen, Carter Jones and Will Covey. Nguyen got several key hits during the season, Jones had one of the team’s highest on-base percentages and led the team in walks while playing good defense at catcher, second base and the outfield and Covey as is his custom came on at the plate late in the season.
McIntire, coming of a 2011 Prep Championship, was assisted by coaches Guy Gruppie, Sr. and Bob Meeks. Congratulations to the 2012 Angels on a record-setting regular season!