No-hitter? No matter for Little Leaguers
Wild pitches manufacture Hagerstown runs in summer Series
WIILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Right-hander Drew Ellis had his team from Jeffersonville, Ind., poised to win its opening-round game Saturday morning in the Little League World Series.
Playing in a Pool A game, Ellis and his teammates, the Great Lakes Region champions, had held Hagerstown, the Mid-Atlantic Region champs from Maryland, hitless as they headed into the last half of the fifth inning.
"We knew we had six outs to get the ball in play," said Hagerstown manager Bill Abeles Jr., whose team had its original game against Jeffersonville postponed Friday night because of rain.
His boys didn't waste those six outs. While they never did get a hit off Ellis, they used patience and his wildness to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win.
"We'll take a manufactured win anytime," Abeles said.
And manufactured this win was, too. Both runs in the fifth came on wild pitches, and Ellis' struggles to command the strike zone set up both runs.
Ellis hit a batter to jump-start the inning for Hagerstown; he then issued a walk.
"He was getting close to his pitch count," Jeffersonville manager Derek Ellis said of his son. "He was probably getting a little tired."
He decided to stick with his young right-hander, who had been dominating a Hagerstown team that had come into the Series with a reputation for scoring runs.
"He was a really good pitcher," Hagerstown center fielder Mark Grunberg said of Ellis. "He threw very hard."
And for most of the ballgame, Ellis threw under control, too.
With the game winding toward its final outs, he needed to keep that going.
He didn't, though.
With two men on in the fifth, Ellis bounced a ball that skipped away from catcher Josh Burke, which allowed the tying run to score. A frustrated Ellis, trying hard to keep Jeffersonville tied, then uncorked another wild pitch, which brought home the go-ahead run.
From there, it was a matter of whether Hagerstown could keep the lead. That looked as if it might present trouble when Jeffersonville shortstop Chandler Dale, facing reliever Josh Barron, opened the sixth with a double.
Third baseman Hayden Robb sacrificed Dale to third. With one out, Jeffersonville had the tying run on third -- a break of any sort away from evening the game at 3.
But Dale struck out Ben Shahroudi for out No. 2, and got Burke to ground to third to end the inning. The chance to tie had turned into defeat.
"They're a little down," said Derek Ellis, sharing the mood of his youngsters. "So what, we lost one. Big deal. We've got two more to play."
For Hagerstown, it puts itself into a stronger position to advance. It did so in one of the oddest of ways -- without a hit.
"That's a first," Abeles said. "Probably one hit here and there, and we manufactured a couple of runs and won a game. But that's the first one of those."
On Sunday, Jeffersonville plays Lake Charles (La.), winner of the Southwest Region. Hagerstown plays its next game in Pool A on Monday when it takes on Mill Creek (Wash.), which represents the Northwest Region.
Mexico 6, Caribbean 2: A pitchers' duel between Carlos Balboa of Mexico and Entwin Reigina of Curacao came undone in top of the fifth. Mexico broke the scoreless ballgame open with five runs in the inning. Center fielder Sergio Rodriguez provided the big blow: A three-run homer to cap the inning. Mexico scored another run in the sixth, but Curacao mounted a mini-rally of its own. It scored two runs off Rodriquez, who'd come on to replace Balboa, before he closed out the victory in the first Pool C game for both teams. "It was important to get this win, especially in a short series like this," said Mexico manager Gustavo Gomez. His team plays Guam, the winner of the Asia-Pacific Region, on Monday; Curacao plays Italy, the winner of the Europe Region.
Guam 7, Italy 6: Guam manager William Meeks needed what looked like a miracle to rescue the Asia-Pacific Region champions from what appeared to be a certain loss. "I told my kids to keep believing in themselves," Meeks said. "They came back strong." Indeed, his kids did. Trailing 6-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth, they scored three times but they still found themselves a run behind Italy. Now, Meeks needed closer Nicholas Cruz to keep Guam within a run. Cruz did his part, striking out the side on 10 pitches. That left victory in the hands of the offense. Italy, which won the Europe Region, didn't seem as if it would oblige. Right-hander Fernando Rabago fanned the first batter. He fanned a second hitter before finding himself with runners on second and third with two outs. That brought Johnny Quenga to the plate. Quenga, who had knocked in two runs earlier, lined one of Rabago's fastballs to center for a single. Two runs scored, giving Guam a win in its Series opener. Both teams resume play Monday. Guam will face Mexico; Italy will play Curacao in Pool D games.
New England 9, Midwest 4: The boys from Shelton National, which represented the New England Region, made amends Saturday for the lack of offense in their first game at the Series. They jumped on right-hander Cale Fierro, who started for Midwest representative Rapid City, for nine runs on six hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings. Right-hander Jesse Riddle came on to stop the scoring, but his work could counter the damage Shelton had done against Fierro. For Shelton, coach Ed Szymansky got a solid outing from right-hander Bobby Moretti, who pitched a complete game. Moretti gave up five hits en route to the victory. Both teams get a day off Sunday before resuming Pool B play. Rapid City, winless so far, will take on Waipahu, Hawaii, which won the West Region; Shelton will meet Citrus Park, Fla., the winner of the Southeast Region.
Japan 5, MEA 0: In a game nobody expected to be close, Saudi Arabia, the team that won the Middle East/Africa Region, hunt tough against a powerful team from Japan. But in the end, the boys from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, would match the execution and skill of the team from Japan. Nor could they figure out how to hit right-hander Ryosuke Moriuchi, who came without two outs of pitching a no-hitter. In his 73-pitch outing, Moriuchi allowed two base runners, the first coming on a walk. He never let MEA mount a serious threat. Yet MEA didn't allow Japan much, either, until the top of the sixth. At the time, MEA trailed, 1-0; the run scored on a wild pitch. "I'm actually proud of my boys," MEA coach James K. Durley said. He had good reason to be proud. Even the Japan coach, Shingo Ariyasu, expected an easier game from his Pool D opponent. Both teams resume play on Sunday. Japan plays Canada, and MEA plays Latin America.
Southwest 5, Northwest 2: "To be the best, you want to beat the best," said Scott Mahlum, coach of the Mill Creek, Wash., team that represented the Northwest Region. In a loss to Lake Charles (La.), his club played one of the best teams in the Series. It certainly faced one of the best pitchers in flamethrower Kennon Fontenot. In pitching Lake Charles to the victory, Fontenot, a right-hander, struck out Series-high 15. "I can't get over how good a pitcher he was," Mahlum said. "He's a fantastic pitcher." Mill Creek coach Charlie Phillips called Fontenot's outing the difference-maker. From the start, he dominated. "I just had all my pitches working," Fontenot said. He and his teammates continue their Pool A play on Sunday, when they take on Great Lakes Region champion Jeffersonville. Mill Creek doesn't play again until Monday. It will face Hagerstown, the Mid-Atlantic champion.
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.