Bell powers Pirates past Cardinals in LL Classic
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Pittsburgh Pirates rookie first baseman Josh Bell put on a power display for all the Little League players, their families and coaches in the stands Sunday night.
Bell belted a towering two-run homer in the first inning and added a two-run single in the third off Mike Leake, sparking the Pirates to a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the inaugural MLB Little League Classic.
Bell’s career-high four RBIs helped Ivan Nova (11-10) win for the first time in five starts in front of 2,596 fans at renovated Bowman Field.
“It was a great experience and we were able to get the W,” said Bell, who has 21 homers and 72 RBIs. “It was a good day.”
“He’s matured,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Bell. “He’s become a guy who (you) can count on to produce runs in our lineup.”
The Cardinals (63-61) chased Nova with two outs in the sixth when Kolten Wong singled to score Yadier Molina and cut the deficit to 6-3. Nova, who arrived in Williamsport a day ahead of the game, scattered eight hits and three runs. He struck out five without issuing a walk as Pittsburgh (60-64) earned a split in the four-game series.
The Pirates, who last played a neutral-site home game on Sept. 22, 1890, against the New York Giants in Wheeling, W.Va., jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Josh Harrison lined an RBI double to left-center field, and Bell followed two batters with a two-run blast to right field.
The Cardinals trimmed the deficit to 3-2 in the second inning when Molina singled and Jedd Gyorko belted Nova’s first pitch over the left field fence for his 17th homer.
The Pirates loaded the bases to start the bottom of the third on three consecutive singles against Leake. Bell then rapped a two-run single to right.
Adam Frazier followed with an RBI double, stretching the lead to 6-2.
Leake (7-12) left after three innings, having allowed eight hits and six runs.
Sunday morning began with both teams flying approximately 200 miles from Pittsburgh to Williamsport Regional Airport.
They were greeted by Little League players and before heading directly to the nearby Little League complex to take in a game.
“Our guys loved interacting with the kids,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It was kind of a throwback to when our guys were Little League players.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred was on hand for the daylong festivities along with other major league baseball executives and deemed the Little League Classic a success.
“I hope it’s not a one-off,” Manfred said. “We have some details that we need to work out to get us in a position to do it again next year, but I’m really hopeful that that’s going to be the case and I’m also hopeful that it’s not just next year.”
Manfred added that the league would rotate the participating teams.
NOTES: Each team was permitted to call up a 26th man for Sunday’s game. The Pirates recalled C Jacob Stallings from Triple-A Indianapolis. The Cardinals called up OF Stephen Piscotty from Triple-A Memphis. He started in right field and batted second, and he finished 2-for-4 with a walk. ... Cardinals OF Tommy Pham ordered 200 snow cones for the Little Leaguers. P Carlos Martinez chipped in to help pay for them. ... Pirates 1B Josh Bell has eight extra-base hits in his past 11 games.