Game 18
8 vs. New England

Monday, August 18, 2008
6:00PM ET

Getting the Last-ra word
Merrell’s sixth-inning homer ties it, Lastra’s seventh-inning homer wins it for Tampa

By Dustin Picciolo
Special Correspondent

Tampa, Florida was facing as much adversity as any team could face in its pool-play finale.

In a do-or-die game with the winner moving on to the semi-final round, Tampa was trailing 2-1 in the top of the six, down to their final two outs against Shelton, Connecticut.

And then…Tampa shortstop Kevin Merrell stepped up, and tied the game with one swing of the bat, taking a Tyler Tice offering over the left-field wall. In the seventh, Tampa first baseman Danny Lastra hit a leadoff homer to centerfield to break the tie and start a six-run rally, as Florida outlasted Connecticut, 8-2, in front of 11,600 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

Florida’s next game will be Thursday night against the winner of U.S. Pool A.

“Once one guy does something, they all start doing it,” said Florida’s manager Joe McGuire when asked about the seventh inning.

But it really started in the sixth with Merrell’s home run.

“That was the biggest hit of the game,” said McGuire. “The rest wouldn’t have happened without it.”

Runs were scarce early on for both teams as they both had only one hit though three innings.

Florida’s Wyatt Reid and Connecticut’s Tyler Tice started the game, and Reid faced just one batter over the minimum through three while Tice faced the minimum.

Merrell’s double leading off the fourth gave Florida their first hit of the game. Two outs and two strikes later, a single through the right side by Lastra plated special pinch runner Daniel Martin to give Tampa a 1-0 lead.

Connecticut battled back as Jason Hafele came into the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fourth, and delivered an infield RBI single that tied it at 1-1.

Connecticut later took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Tyler Tice singled in the go-ahead run in Matt Stoll, who pinch ran for Anthony Searles after a double to right field to start off the inning.

Things looked good for Connecticut going into the sixth before Merrell’s blast.

Knowing his team has two days off, McGuire said, “Maybe we’ll put them on a bus and go to New York or something. Watch a Yankee game.”

In all, Florida has a reason to celebrate knowing they have advanced to the semi-final round.

McGuire said, “To be one of the top four teams in the United States, I’ll take that.”

2008, Little League Baseball Incorporated
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