Mill Creek moves on in Williamsport
Little League World Series has a day of close games
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Coach Scott Mahlum knew it wasn't necessarily win or go home on Tuesday afternoon for the 13 boys on his Mill Creek, Wash., baseball team.
A loss would have required Jeffersonville, Ind., winners of the Great Lakes Region, to outscore Mahlum's Northwest Region champions by two runs.
Mahlum had no interest in seeing his boys go into the next round of the Little League World Series on the heels of a loss.
But he won't have to worry about his boys backing in now after they eliminated Jeffersonville, 3-2, in seven innings.
Catcher Alex Jondal knocked in the winning run on a two-out single into the alley in left-center to score Jason Todd, the starting pitcher for Mill Creek.
"I thought it was gone," Todd said.
On a day when the wind ruled, the ball had little chance of clearing the fence, but the ball landed untouched between center fielder Austin Hines and left fielder Tyler Sariscsany.
Jondal's single finished off an inning that looked as if it would end with the heroics going to someone else.
With Chris Wenger pitching, shortstop Derrick Mahlum, the coach's son, walked. Todd walked, too. But on his walk, the ball escaped catcher Josh Burke. Mahlum tried to reach third, but Burke's throw gunned him down there.
Todd tried for second on the throw, and he made it. But he moved up to third when third baseman Hayden Robb's throw skipped into the outfield.
Jeffersonville went to a five-man infield for first baseman Joakim Soderqvist, whom Wenger fanned. Up came Jondal, who had two hits earlier.
"I had two strikes," Jondal said. "I didn't want to pop anything up. I just wanted to get a hit so we could win."
And a hit he got, assuring Mill Creek would advance from Pool A play into the next round of the Series. It will play Hawaii, winners of Pool B. The hit also assured that Jeffersonsville would not advance.
That didn't take away from the pride coach Derek Ellis had for his Indiana boys, who were winless in three games.
"They played hard -- all the way up to this point," Ellis said.
Despite the loss, Ellis watched a splendid performance from his son, Derrick, the starting pitcher. He held Mill Creek to two runs on five hits.
Yet he found himself just trying to keep pace with Todd, the right-hander who struck out 11, holding Jeffersonville to two runs -- one unearned. His performance made the prospects of Mill Creek advancing look good.
"Moving on to the semis now, we're gonna go up against a good team in Hawaii," said Todd, who hit the game's only homer. "It's a great feeling, knowing you're moving on in the Little League World Series."
Japan 5, Venezula 4: Japan made its way through Pool D play unbeaten, but it took a beating in doing so. Facing Venezuela, winners of the Latin American Region, the boys from Tokyo managed three hits, but they got plucked with pitches seven times, using those hit batters to advance to the next round in seven innings.
The teams headed into the seventh tied, 3-3. With Gustavo Perdomo pitching for Venezuela, pinch-hitter Tsuyoki Setoguchi walked.
In came Will Changarotty to relieve Perdomo. Changarotty hit Ryo Motegi with a pitch. A passed ball moved both runners up. Changarotty's wild pitch scored the go-ahead run, and Yutaka Takeshita's sacrifice fly added the insurance run, which Japan would need when Venezuela mounted a rally in the bottom of the inning.
Even with the loss, Venezuela also advances to the next round.
Canada 7, MEA 5: Third baseman/catcher Jake Hagen had been hitless since he'd been at the Series, but Hagen won't be returning to British Columbia with a 0-fer in tow. Hagen's homer in the fifth played a big part in a five-run inning that allowed Canada to beat Saudi Arabia, winner of the Middle East/Africa Region. "I couldn't be happier," Hagen said. Both teams came into the ballgame winless, and they played with the kind of energy that marked the tournament play of all teams. MEA had built a 5-2 lead in the top of the fifth, thanks in part to Zach Ell's two-run homer in the second. Things unraveled from there. Starter Chris Beyers, who went 2-for-4 at the plate, reached the pitch limit, which forced MEA coach James Durley to dip into his bullpen. But reliever Bryce Jackson struggled to find the strike zone. Jackson walked three and gave up two hits and four runs in one-third of an inning. Right-hander Kyle Al-Shafei had to bail Jackson out. But by then, Canada had built a two-run lead, which reliever Preston Kokotailo was able to preserve with a 1-2-3 top of the sixth.
Curacao 3, Guam 0: Coach Vernon Isabella didn't like what he saw in starter Claycandy Hariquez, so with the next round of the Series at stake, Isabella didn't want to risk having his Curacao team, winners of the Caribbean Region, advance in the tournament. "We expected to be in the next round," he said through an interpreter. So Isabella went to his ace, right-hander Tivon Faneyte, after the first. The move worked. For Faneyte held Guam, winners of the Asia-Pacific Region, hitless over the next five innings. He had a performance that was much needed, partly because Guam got a solid outing from Nicholas Cruz and reliever Mark Blas. Cruz and Blas combined to allow five hits and three runs; two of those runs scored on Junters Dosset's triple in the fifth. They couldn't, however, get any offensive support from their teammates. He found Faneyte overpowering. "It was not my best game," he said. "But it was not my worst game also." Whatever it was, it was good enough to allow Curacao to advance and eliminate Guam from the tournament.
Mid-Atlantic 6, Southwest 4: Coach Bill Abeles Jr. knew for his Hagerstown, Md., team to advance in the Series, his boys had to beat Lake Charles, La., the Southwest Region champs, and score a bundle of runs. Hagerstown, the Mid-Atlantic Region champs, did the first part, but it fell far short of the double-digit run total the team needed to move on to the next round. "It didn't really work out," Abeles said. But even in elimination, his ballclub showed it was worthy of sticking around. Backed by the supreme pitching of left-hander Andrew Yacyk and homers from Yacyk, Ryan Byard and Zane Schreiber, Hagerstown silenced a powerful Lake Charles lineup for most of the ballgame. Lake Charles made a last-inning rally but couldn't erase a 6-0 deficit. "They did a super job," Lake Charles coach Charlie Phillips of Hagerstown. "They had the momentum. The just played super, and Andrew did a good job of pitching."
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.