Landers boys lift Worcester to win
The orange and blue jerseys. The 0-1 records. The ‘W’ city distinctions. Webb City, Mo., and Worcester, Mass., even had matching line scores through most of Saturday night’s showdown.
With so many parallels, a late-inning nail-biter seemed to be in order. And the little leaguers obliged, giving the 7,200 in attendance at Volunteer Stadium one to remember.
In the end, the Landers kids took over as Worcester sweated out critical 2-1 victory over the Midwest representatives. The New England little leaguers upped their record to 1-1 in the World Series, while Webb City fell to 0-2.
Players on both squads understood the magnitude of the game.
“We knew we had to win tonight or else we were gone,” shortstop Gordie Lockbaum said.
Worcester snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fourth as Ben Landers legged out an infield single, scoring pinch runner Micah Golshirazian from third. That was all the support his namesake, Keith Landers, would need. The southpaw allowed only four hits in a complete game win.
“Every time he was in trouble he bore down and kept them off-balance,” Worcester manager Fran Granger said. “He didn’t know these batters, but after you see them once, we know we can them out.”
After struggling with his control early, Keith Landers settled down nicely, surrendering only 1 hit after the first frame. He mixed speeds nicely throughout the game, keeping the Webb City sluggers off-balance.
“I was really nervous when those first few kids got hits off me,” he said. “But then my coach came out and I got a little more calm.”
Webb City took note of Landers’ jitters and revved the engines for a scoring fest, but then their bats went quiet.
“We felt like we needed another hit get, maybe get two more runs in and have a great shot,” Midwest manager Craig Powell said. “I thought we’d get to him anyway, but he kept us off balance with his big breaking ball stuff and we just didn’t get going.”
The Midwest representative threatened in the top of the fifth, as Jerick Swarens and Dakotah Miller walked to begin the inning. But precision pitching and dependable defense kept Webb City from scoring. Lockbaum bobbled a two-out grounder, but recovered and threw to third for the force out.
Landers took note of the heads up play and then took care of business in the sixth, striking out the side to secure victory.
“They go out 100 percent for everything,” Granger said. “If you saw our warm-ups, they’re diving for everything, making great plays.
“That’s just the way they are.”
While Landers baffled batters with finesse, Webb City righthander Chance Sossomon powered his way through the New England lineup. Sossomon recorded nine strikeouts in five innings of work.
Webb City struck first, thanks to a smash in the left-centerfield gap by pitcher Sossomon in the top of the first inning. The double brought home Miller, who had reached on a single.
But Worcester bounced back immediately, knotting the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the inning. Bite-size third baseman Andy Fallon came around after Lockbaum slapped an outside pitch into right field for a double.
Worcester will wait until Monday when it takes on Fort Worth Texas at 2 p.m. Webb City meets Waipahu, Hawaii at 8 p.m. on Monday.
By Adam Rittenberg