Cardinals host Pitch, Hit & Run at Busch Stadium

Cardinals host Pitch, Hit & Run at Busch Stadium

Scotts Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run, the official youth skills competition of Major League Baseball, held one of its local championships Saturday morning at Busch Stadium.

More than 20 kids from ages 7-14, who advanced from local and sectional rounds, braved the rain to take part. All 30 Major League teams will host local championships at their ballparks on weekends through the end of June.

The top competitors from each age group (7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14) across the country will advance to the Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit & Run National Finals, which will take place before the Home Run Derby in San Diego on July 11.

Hayden Hartley from Urbana, Ill., won the 13-14 baseball age division Saturday.

"I was just trying to do it with my friends and have a friendly competition," Hartley said. "But I got farther than I thought I would."

The competition, now in its 20th year with over 650,000 participants nationwide, falls under the umbrella of the Play Ball Initiative. The program encourages more softball and baseball participation among youth around the country.

The Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit & Run program includes alumni such as Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. He finished as the national runner-up in the 7-8 year-old age division at Coors Field before the 1998 All-Star Game.

Hartley's favorite player is Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk, and Hartley fondly remembered David Freese hitting a home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. He was excited to be standing in the same place where his heroes played.

"As a Cardinal fan, it's really awesome," he said. "It's kind of like a dream standing on the field."

The pitching portion of the competition tests accuracy, with each competitor throwing six balls to try to hit a strike zone from an assigned distance (35 feet for softball and 45 feet for baseball). Players then have three attempts to hit a ball off a tee as far as possible. The final part of the competition was a 180-foot run against the clock. A points system decided the winners, who are now eligible for the national competition.

With wet conditions and a tarp over the infield, the event moved to the outfield grass and warning track. Although participants were playing for something more, the competition was all in good spirit. Parents clapped as each child took their turn, and kids made conversation as they waited.

Piper Lincoln, 8, finished second in the 7-8 softball age division. She was noticeably excited to be there.

"I like hitting, and I really like to see how far I can hit it," Lincoln said. "I play softball, and wanted to learn how to do more things and just make a good memory."

Here is the full list of winners from the event:

• Ryleigh Kliethermes (Eugene, Mo. -- 7/8 softball division)
• Carly Foster (Fulton, Mo. -- 9/10 softball division)
• Keira Chrisco (Rolla, Mo. -- 11/12 softball division)
• Abbigail Zangori (Wood River, Ill. -- 13/14 softball division)
• Ethan Brookshire (Chesterfield, Mo. -- 7/8 baseball division)
• Ben Sherer (Newman, Ill. -- 9/10 baseball division)
• Woodrow Foster (Fulton, Mo. -- 11/12 baseball division)
• Hayden Hartley (Urbana, Ill. -- 13/14 baseball division)

Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.