Cardinals host Pitch, Hit & Run competition

Abbigail Zangori is a veteran of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run Presented by Scotts competition. The eighth grader from Wood River, Ill., won the girls' 11-12 age division in last year's Cardinals team championship competition. Her past success didn't completely stop the nerves from creeping in as she competed in the 13-14 age division at Busch Stadium on Saturday morning, though.

"I still got butterflies," Zangori said. "But I had experience, so I didn't get them as much."

The butterflies didn't stop her from claiming a first-place plaque for a second year in a row, as Zangori finished the morning as one of the competition's eight winners from a pool of 24 competitors spanning eight divisions. Pitch, Hit & Run is a nationwide competition that will culminate during All-Star Week in Cincinnati in July.

An overcast and eventually misty morning kept the Cardinals' grounds crew busy doctoring the infield and moved the competition to the outfield grass. But the weather did not keep awe from creeping onto the faces of the competitors, who ranged from 7-14 years old.

"It feels amazing, actually, to touch the field of all the great players that have played here before," said Justin Lopez, an Overland, Mo., eighth grader and champion of the boys' 13-14 age division.

The other winners were: Tyler Frost (7-8 girls), Abby Braby (9-10 girls), Zoey Barr (11-12 girls), Tyler Mills (7-8 boys), Teddy Ochs (9-10 boys) and Woodrow Foster (11-12 boys).

Pitch Hit & Run began in 1997, and more than 4,000 local competitions take place each year, with participants needing to advance through a local competition and sectionals to reach the team competition held in each Major League city.

The top three winners from each age group among all 30 teams will have the opportunity to compete in the national competition in Cincinnati.

"I need to work on it now if I'm going to the next round," Lopez said. "I'm really hoping for the best."

Saturday's winners will learn on an MLB Network broadcast in June if they advance to the national competition.

Regardless of what happens next, Zangori and Lopez agreed that playing on the field at Busch Stadium was a thrilling experience.

"I'm definitely a huge Cardinals fan," Lopez said. "I'm so happy I'm able to play where they play at and to be able to come watch them, because I don't get to do that often. It's really amazing for me."

David Cobb is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.