Friday, August 19, 2011
Kentucky edges hometown favorite
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Kentucky starter Griffin McLarty silenced Pennsylvania's hitters and their huge cheering section at the Little League World Series on Friday night, getting solid defense and providing his own offense.
The lanky, 6-foot pitcher from LaGrange, Ky., struck out 12 and hit a homer in a 1-0 win over the hometown favorites from Clinton County, just 30 miles down the road from South Williamsport.
Central Pennsylvania's favorite sons drew such a huge crowd that fans sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the grassy, terraced hill above the outfield fences.
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But it was the Kentucky contingent that was celebrating loudest by the end of a tense night that had the atmosphere of a major league playoff game. The 13-year-old McLarty calmly walked off the mound after getting a strikeout to end the game with runners on second and third.
Pennsylvania twice had the potential tying run thrown out at the plate, including Tyler McCloskey in the sixth after Brandon Miller beat out an infield single.
As if McLarty's night wasn't memorable enough, the ace also hit an opposite-field fly that just landed inside the left-field foul pole for a homer.
Little League officials said the game drew 41,848 fans, breaking the record of 40,000 that had been set in the 1989 and 1990 championship games.
There were hard plays that landed players on the turf; a Pennsylvania double that was called back after the third-base umpire called it foul even while the left-field umpire called fair; and a critical double play that prevented Pennsylvania from scoring the tying run in the fifth.
"It was pretty crazy, but I had to block it out of my head and not be distracted by the all the fans and the questionable calls," said McLarty, who overpowered hitters with his fastball and kept them off balance with his curve.
"Keystone! Keystone!" the fans chanted after Mike Keibler came to the plate with one out and Wyatt Koch on second in the fifth. A wild pitch moved Koch to third.
On a 2-0 pitch, Keibler hit a slow bouncer grabbed by McLarty, who looked Koch back to third before throwing to first for the out. Koch then broke for home, but first baseman Jacob Bates threw to the plate to just get the runner.
"The environment was unbelievable," said Bates' father, manager Brad Bates. "We were glad to see all that royal blue out there. It reminded us of a Kentucky football or basketball game."
The loss overshadowed an effective outing by Pennsylvania starter Cole Reeder, who allowed three hits, walked three and struck out two over four innings.
"There is no shame in losing a ball game 1-0. We had several chances to score the tying run and potentially the winning run," Pennsylvania manager Bill Garbrick said.
"Things could have been different. It's just that we forced them to make plays and they did well."
Huntington Beach, Calif. 11, Cumberland, R.I. 0
California didn't have quite as difficult a time Friday, though there was a scary moment when pitcher Braydon Salzman missed getting hit in the head by a comebacker.
The hard shot didn't keep the 13-year-old right-hander down on the mound long. He dusted himself off to finish the third inning with a strikeout and scored three runs too. A scary scene turned into a lighthearted moment after the convincing win.
"It was supposed to be a curveball, but I think he threw the No. 5 ... the pancake," Pratto joked. Sitting next to him, a giggling Salzman sported a red spot on his forehead from where the line drive forced the brim into his head.
"It's hard to say," Salzman said when asked if he thought he would return to the game. "I didn't know if I was going to come back and throw strikes."
After walking the next batter, Salzman, 13, got his fifth strikeout to finish off the inning.
A six-run fifth inning allowed the Huntington Beach bombers to pull away. Trevor Windisch had three RBIs, two of them coming on a single in the fifth.
Canada 6, Saudi Arabia 5
Colby Ring scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning to give Langley, British Columbia a 6-5 victory Friday over Dhahran, Saudi Arabia at the Little League World Series.
With the game tied in the bottom of the sixth, Ring walked and moved to third when Ian Burns doubled. A curveball skipped away from the catcher, and Ring scampered home for the winning run.
Cole Cantelon had three hits and knocked in three runs for Canada and pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for the win in a game delayed nearly 90 minutes by rain.
Tanner Beachy had an RBI double for Saudi Arabia, which took advantage of three Canada errors to score five runs in the top of the third after trailing 2-0 early.
Venezuela 6, Netherlands 1
Omar Conoropo Jr. knocked in three runs, two on a homer in the fifth, and Keny Marquez struck out 10 for Venezuela. Aaron de Groot walked and later scored the Netherlands' only run on a wild pitch in the fifth inning, while Darryl Jamoena added a double.