For better or Worcester
Coming into their final game of pool play on Monday, the Jesse Burkett Little League All-Stars knew that they needed a win to keep their chances alive of playing in the elimination round. They also knew they had a daunting obstacle separating them from the next round of play.
The Westside Little League All-Stars from Fort Worth, Texas, entered Monday’s showdown against Worcester, Mass., with a 2-0 record. A formidable combination of stellar pitching and superior defense had allowed only two hits in two games in the series. Simply put, nobody had come close to scoring on the Texas squad.
That is, until the third inning of Monday’s game.
With the game still scoreless in the bottom of the third inning, Worcester third baseman Andy Fallon got things going with a one-out single to right. After Gordie Lockbaum walked, the stage was set for 206-pound slugger Frank Flynn.
The pitcher crushed a ball 260 feet into the left-center field gallery, giving his team a 3-0 lead and handing Fort Worth its first loss of the tournament. Worcester would score once more in the inning on a RBI single by Zach Ford and went on to win, 6-0.
“The pitcher threw a fastball down the middle of the plate to me, so I just tried to hit it where nobody was standing,” Flynn said. “I guess I hit it where nobody was.”
“When that thing left the bat,” Westside manager Jon Kelly said of Flynn’s monster shot, “I was guessing 450 feet.”
Worcester manager Fran Granger’s decision to throw Flynn, his ace, in the pivotal game paid off. Flynn was masterful, striking out nine and allowing only four hits against the usually prolific Fort Worth lineup.
“I was really nervous in the first inning,” Flynn said. “After the first, I calmed down and started feeling pretty good out on the mound.”
The Fort Worth manager tipped his cap to Flynn.
“Flynn pitched a great game,” Kelly said. “He threw the ball hard and just pitched a really great game against us.”
Worcester padded its 4-0 lead in the fourth inning with consecutive base hits by Lockbaum, Flynn and Keith Landers.
“We were all more comfortable after Frank hit the home run,” Fallon said. “We knew that there was nothing too worry about anymore.”
With the victory, Worcester virtually guaranteed itself a spot in Wednesday’s U.S. semifinal against Louisville, Ky. Fort Worth will next either face Harlem, N.Y., or Aptos, Calif., in its U.S. semifinal on Thursday.