Austin Patti, 12, of Monroe, won the first two rounds of the 2023 T-Mobile Little League Home Run Derby Championship, with enough clutch swings for 11-10 and 13-12 triumphs at Volunteer Stadium in Williamsport, Penn., on Aug. 24. All that stood between Patti and the title was Ronin McCrea, of San Diego, who showed a hot bat in a thrilling come-from-behind victory in overtime against Tony Pescatello.
Patti batted first in the championship round. He had two minutes to hit as many home runs as he could — and went on to have his best performance of the day.
Patti bashed the first eight pitches over the fence, just missing a ninth homer in a row. The righty even hit some dingers to the opposite field.
By the time his impressive power display was over, Patti had hit 19 home runs, putting intense pressure on McCrea just to match it.
Still on a roll from last round, McCrea belted 18 home runs, pulling to within one of Patti, before calling a time out with eight seconds left.
Moments after stepping back into the batter’s box, McCrea hit the tying homer with five seconds left. Then he hit the winning home run as time expired for a dramatic 20-19 championship win.
It was a heartbreaker for Patti, and for his family and friends who made the trip to cheer him on. But the young slugger left with his head held high.
“No matter if you win or lose, try your best and enjoy the moment,” Patti said of what he learned from the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I am so proud of my son, Austin,” said Janet Patti. “Following him along on this journey and witnessing him go through the process of this competition, from the local, to regional, to national levels has impressed me so much. He has a rare, quiet confidence and resiliency that will serve him well in everything he will do in life. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for him!”
Kevin Patti, Austin’s father and coach, also expressed pride in his performance.
“It was such a fun experience to witness the home run derby,” Kevin said. “Being able to watch Austin compete against kids from all over the country in that atmosphere was a once in a lifetime experience. To make it to the finals and slug it out with the West Coast winner was a memory that will last forever. The whole Williamsport experience is quite magical. To watch the teams in the tournament play such good baseball at that age was truly impressive.”
Asked if he was nervous during the competition, Patti recalled his narrow 13-12 win against Landon Bono of Lake Mary, Fla.
“Yes, but especially when it was my turn up after the rain delay in round two,” Patti said. “I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to beat Landon’s 12 home runs! I just try to do my best, and not think too much.”
Competing in the National Little League Home Run Derby was a memorable experience for Patti.
“It was fun to meet lots of new people from all over the U.S., as well as from Cuba and Curacao,” he said. “It was cool to see other people my age play the game that I love!”
Patti said his favorite part of the experience was, “having my friends and family there to cheer me on!”
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