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Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Curacao bests Taiwan in game of comebacks

Associated Press

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Texas is two steps away from a world championship.

Chance Murski hit a grand slam and Randal Grichuk hit a three-run homer to lead Richmond, Texas, to the United States final with an 8-2 win over Morganton, N.C., on Wednesday night at the Little League World Series.

Texas plays the winner of the Thousand Oaks, Calif., vs. Preston, Md., game on Saturday for the championship. The world championship is Sunday.

"I'm just about as excited as you can get. I'm just emotionally drained," Texas manager Jim Michalek said.

Vice President Dick Cheney watched the game from a hill beyond the outfield wall, and "Born in the USA" blared from the speakers as Texas played in its second straight semifinal.

In the second inning, Tyler Ford doubled, and Matt Daniels and Dustin Moehlig hit consecutive singles to load the bases for Murski. Murski, hitting only .167 in the series, crushed one to left field off Dykota Spiess (0-1) for a 4-0 lead.

"I hung in there and got that pitch," said Murski, who went 1-for-3. "I feel pretty good, but the rest of the at-bats I didn't do that well."

It didn't matter.

Grichuk, back for his second consecutive Little League World Series, added a three-run homer in the fourth to make it 7-0. It was his fourth homer of the series and sixth in two years. Grichuk is one shy of tying the career home run record held by two players, including Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon in 1971.

Grichuk, a pitcher and first baseman, is the only returning player on the Texas team.

"I just go up to the plate thinking, 'Hit the ball,' " he said.

Daniel Homann (2-0) earned his second win of the series, allowing four hits and striking out eight. After the final out, he bounded off the mound and celebrated with his teammates near the first-base line.

Spiess and Eli Watson had RBI in the sixth inning for North Carolina.

"Our hitting wasn't there," North Carolina manager Alan Lail said. "They're 12-year-olds and sometimes they don't bring their entire game with them."

Last year, Saugus, Mass., scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to eliminate Texas in the U.S. semifinals. This year, Texas is looking for more.

"We're one of the top four Little League teams in the whole world," Daniels said, smiling. "If you stop and think about it, it's pretty amazing."

Cheney sat with his wife, Lynne, on the popular hill where families gather and kids slide down on flattened cardboard boxes. He stayed for three innings and signed for a steady stream of autograph seekers.

Lynne Cheney told fans she hoped they enjoyed the visit and reminded them to vote.

Curacao 9, Taiwan 8 (7 innings)
Jonathan Schoop had the game-tying hit in the sixth and the winning hit in the seventh to lead Willem Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles into the international championship game with the win over Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Chinese Taipei.

Curacao will play the winner of Corundu, Panama, vs. Nuevo Leon, Mexico, game on Saturday in the championship.

Curacao rallied to tie the game with an improbable four-run sixth, sending it into extra innings before knocking out Taiwan, whose teams won 17 Little League World Series titles between 1969-96.

In the seventh, Rigynoel Rondei singled and advanced to second base on a sacrifice off Taiwan reliever Hsu Chi-Hung. Willie Rifaela hit a grounder to short that Chen Hung-Ta bobbled for an error and Quincey van Blarcum followed with a blooper to Chen Hung that he again misplayed.

That was ruled a hit, however, loading the bases for Schoop.

Schoop singled through the hole into left, extending his arms straight out as he rounded first. He ran toward the mound and met his teammates where they jumped around and danced off the field.

Schoop earned the win with an inning of scoreless relief.