Richmond in Instant Classic
New England champs advance to U.S. Championship game
By Mark Rogoff
The situation was
all a Little Leaguer could ask for – bottom of the 7th, winning run on
third, 2 outs, 3-2 count, and 28,000 enthusiastic baseball fans on
Saugus’s David Ferriera found himself right in the middle of that
circumstance Thursday night in one of the U.S. semifinals. This, after
his Saugus team blew a 6-run lead in the 6th, and this, after his
Saugus mates had tied the score with 3 runs after Richmond had jumped
out to a 13-10 lead in the top half of the 7th.
Ferreira, who was looking for that solid,
right-on-the-sweet-spot, clutch hit got exactly that. Well, almost.
Ferreira’s ever-so-slow roller down the
3rd base line scored Dario Pizzano for the winning tally as Ferreira
narrowly beat the throw to first. Final score: Saugus 14, Richmond 13,
in what was perhaps the greatest, most exciting Little League World
Series game of all time.
“I thought it was
foul,” said Ferriera, who hesitated out of the batter’s box. “I saw it
go fair so I just tried to run my hardest. I was scared that I was
going to get out.
“It feels wicked good.”
Saugus head coach Rob Rochenski had
similar feelings. “We had that game all the way,” he said
sarcastically. “That’s probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been
a part of. It’s tough for us (coaches), too. I just couldn’t believe
what was happening.”
Matt Muldoon, who was summoned to pitch in
the 6th after starter Michael Scuzzarella allowed a 2-run homer to
Rondal Grichuk that pulled Richmond to within 10-6, redeemed his blown
save by knocking a 2-out, 2-strike single to left that plated 2 runs.
Muldoon got credit for the RBI that pulled Saugus to within 13-12,
while the tying run came across on the throw from the outfield that
got past catcher Marcus Martinez.
also came with Saugus down to its last strike.
Said Ferriera of hitting behind Muldoon in
the order: “He gets on base a lot, and I can get hits.”
Muldoon gave up 3
runs in the extra frame after allowing the 3 in the 6th to that pesky
Texas offense. He kept his cool despite his ineffectiveness, and
showed little emotion when talking to reporters following the game.
“I closed a couple games before,” he said,
when asked about his mentality during save situations. “I just wanted
to get outs and keep the ball down to get groundouts.”
Scuzzarella did pitch well enough to win,
giving up 6 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks in 5.0+ innings of
he didn’t have his best stuff,” Rochenski said. “But usually half of
his best stuff is good enough.”
Richmond second baseman Eli Sepulveda
scorched a triple to right-center with 2 outs in the 7th to bring home
Jimmy Michalek for the go-ahead run. Cody Robinson’s 2-run home run a
batter later was thought to be the clincher.
envious of the Texas-sized comeback.
“That’s incredible,” he said of the
Richmond effort. “To come back after being outmatched for the first 5
innings was incredible. Hats off to them.”
Said Richmond head coach Jim Michalek: “I
could never articulate the guts that they showed tonight. I’m
incredibly, shockingly pleased with those kids.
“Kids have an incredible desire to
compete. You cannot teach that in kids. It’s not learned.”
Saugus’s 6-run 3rd inning cracked open the
game – for the time being – as the New England champs sent 9 batters
to the plate. Joseph Kasabuski’s 3-run homer to left had capped off
Richmond chipped away
at Saugus’s lead after the 6-run outbreak. Randal Grichuk hit a solo
shot in the 4th. Sepulveda, who hit a one-out triple in the 5th,
scored on a Tyler Calla throwing error for Richmond’s 4th run.