Rah, Rah Dhahran!!!
In their 2001 Little League World Series opener the Arabian American Little League All-Stars of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia fell to the eventual champs from Asia, 4-2. The Dhahran team finished pool play in the 2001 series with a 1-2 record, failing to qualify them for the elimination round.
This year is different. The Arabian American All-Stars are back, and with experience gained from last year’s trip to Williamsport. In their 2002 opener, the Saudi Arabian team defeated the North Regina Little League All-Stars out of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, 3-2, in seven innings.
“Having played last year makes a big difference; it makes it easier to win,” said returning shortstop Craig Lumpa. “You know what to expect and you have a lot less nerves.”
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the third inning, lead-off man Tommy Timoney knocked a grounder off the outstretched glove of pitcher Eric Bryce, scoring Nicholas Gosse. The RBI single gave Dhahran an early 1-0 lead.
Regina bounced right back with a run of their own in the top of the fourth to tie the score at 1-1. Bryce helped himself out, hammering a Dieterich offering well over the centerfield fence.
Shortstop Lumpa answered in the bottom of the inning. After sending a line drive single up the middle, Lumpa advanced to second on a wild pitch by Bryce. Lumpa reached third on a passed ball and then came home on another wild pitch.
But Canada tied the score at 2-2 in the sixth inning. After a Ryan Stevenson single, a Kyle Richardson double and an intentional walk to Bryce, shortstop Matthew Strueby was at the plate with the bases full and no outs. Strueby scorched a line drive to short, which was caught by a leaping Lumpa. Lumpa then doubled off Richardson. Second baseman Gosse then threw away the ball while trying to pick off Stevenson at third. Stevenson scored, tying up the game.
“(Lumpa) made a fabulous play,” said Canadian head coach Barry Richardson. “He really saved the game for his team.”
Dieterich never lost his composure and got Shawn Wilyman to ground out to second to get out of the inning.
Bryce blanked the Saudi Arabian team in the bottom of the sixth to send the game into extra innings.
With a new Canadian pitcher on the mound, the seventh inning belonged to the experienced Saudi team.
“Eric’s tank was empty; he knew that he was done,” Richardson said.
With the starter’s arm spent, Richardson called on his third man in the rotation, Wilyman, to take the hill.
Brendon Baker led off the bottom of the inning, reaching on a base-on-balls. He advanced to third on two consecutive wild pitches. Baker then scored on a passed ball, giving his Arabian American All-Stars their first win of the 2002 tournament.
“It was a team decision to run if there was a passed ball,” Baker said. “I knew that if I got a chance, I was going.
“It feels great. The sensation of knowing that your team had just won the game was… wow, it was great.”