WASHINGTON -- Pitching, hitting and running. It's the three basic fundamentals of both baseball and softball, and 24 youngsters who have mastered these three tools gathered at Nationals Park on Monday to compete in the 2018 Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Finals.
The journey for the 24 finals competitors (ages 7-14) was anything but simple. Beginning in March, approximately 625,000 youth participated in more than 4,500 competitions, with just the top three baseball and softball participants in each age group advancing to Nationals Park.
The boys and girls took the mound first to try to throw as many strikes into a net as they could in six attempts. Then, the participants stepped into the batter's box to take three swings off a tee, trying to hit the ball as straight and far as possible. Finally, the afternoon finished with a sprint from second base to home plate.
Once each round was over, the scores were tallied and the trophies were presented by MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development, Tony Reagins, and former big leaguer Harold Reynolds. Each of the participants then had the opportunity to shag fly balls in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night.
Video: HRD: Pitch, Hit & Run winners announced at HR Derby
Here are your 2018 Pitch, Hit & Run champions:
Kinsey Cave, 7/8 Softball Division, Wallace, N.C.
Kinsey Cave relied on some of her friends' experiences with the Pitch, Hit & Run Finals to help her stay calm coming to Nationals Park on Monday. She said that because her friends have competed in the competition before, they all gave her advice on what to expect when coming to Washington D.C.
"Just try your best," was the best piece of advice she received, according to Cave.
Cave did just that, throwing three strikes out of six pitches in her first event, which beat both of her opponents in her division. She waited the rest of the afternoon to get to her favorite event, running from second base to home plate in 10.81 seconds.
Brandon Wilson, 7/8 Baseball Division, Kansas City, Kan.
Traveling more than 1,000 miles to compete in Monday's finals, Brandon Wilson made sure his long trek was worth it. After getting into D.C. on Saturday, Wilson just couldn't wait until Monday afternoon.
"[I was just] really excited for the competition," Wilson said.
Wilson threw four strikes in the pitching competition and posted a 9.84-second score in his run from second base to home plate. Although he was most excited for the competition, Wilson said he was also looking forward to seeing Javier Baez in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby and hoped to get a high-five from him.
Mariah Harrison, 9/10 Softball Division, Fort Mitchell, Ala.
When Harrison was announced as the winner of her age group, it was clear she had a lot of fans in the stands. As she made her walk to receive her trophy, loud cheers filled Nationals Park from her mother, father, sisters, grandmother, aunt and cousins who filled the row right behind the third-base dugout.
Harrison said she was most nervous for the pitching portion of Monday's event, but she was not intimated by competing on a Major League field.
"It felt really good," Harrison said. "[It was cool] that actual Major League Baseball players play on it."
Tate Meier, 9/10 Baseball Division, Washington, D.C.
It's normal for most kids in the finals of the Pitch, Hit & Run competition to feel some nerves prior to the event starting, but Tate Meier had felt even more pressure representing his hometown at Nationals Park.
"Yeah, definitely a lot of pressure, because a lot of my friends and family were here," Meier said. "I had two families come in to support me, and one of their kids, it's his birthday. It was a lot of pressure, but I just came out here to have a good time."
Although he may say he felt the pressure, Meier did not show it, as he was one of the most energetic participants on the field. He started his afternoon throwing three perfect strikes and ended his day racing from second base to home in 8.93 seconds.
Mylia Perez, 11/12 Softball Division, San Ramon, Calif.
Perez is no stranger to the Pitch, Hit & Run Finals, as this is her third consecutive year competing in the event. Although some may think that the experience she has under her belt would've calmed her nerves, Perez said that it made her even more nervous.
"What made me nervous was all the parents watching you," Perez said. "For me, it made me feel more pressure, because I feel like people are expecting more from you because I've done it years before, so I have more experience."
Clearly the experience ended up paying off, as Perez took home the first-place trophy. She posted the fastest female score in the running portion of the event, going from second base to home plate in 8.24 seconds.
Gavin McIntyre, 11/12 Baseball Division, Princess Anne, Md.
Meier from the 9/10 division may have been the hometown favorite, but Gavin McIntyre was not much different coming from just two hours away over the Bay Bridge. McIntyre said he was proud to represent his hometown of Princess Anne, Md.
"It pretty much showed that where I'm from isn't like, 'Oh, where's that at?'" McIntyre said. "It's actually someplace."
McIntyre may have walked away with the first-place trophy on Monday, but his expectations for the rest of the day were still set pretty high. When asked what he was most looking forward to about the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, his answer was simple.
"Making a diving catch," McIntyre said.
Abby Torgerson, 13/14 Softball Division, Orchard Park, N.Y.
When most of the contestants said they were nervous prior to Monday's event, Abby Torgerson said that she was not.
"Not really, because today, I got first, second or third in the country," Torgerson said. "So, I was pretty happy with all three of them."
Although she would've been satisfied with any result, Torgerson had a stellar day to bring home the first-place trophy. She shined in her favorite event, throwing five strikes out of just six pitches to start her afternoon on a strong note.
"To be able to stand on the mound on like a big league field, that's just pretty cool," Torgerson said. "Not many kids get to do this, let alone come on an MLB diamond in the first place, so to be on an All-Star Week diamond is pretty amazing."
Callan Fang, 13/14 Softball Division, Yardley, Penn.
Just like Torgerson, Fang dominated the pitching event, tossing five strikes down the middle out of his six attempts. This was Fang's favorite event, and he said that it was a perfect way to begin the competition.
"Once I finished the pitching, I was in a decent position," Fang said. "So it calmed my nervous."
Once the day was over, Fang turned his attention to shagging fly balls in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby later that evening.
"I'm looking forward to it a lot," Fang said. "One of my favorite players, Rhys Hoskins, is in it, so I'm looking forward to seeing him."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.