Wild, Wild West
After long wait, California
makes its presence felt with six-run third inning
The Conejo Valley
All-Stars confirmed it. Waiting is, in fact, the hardest part.
After arriving in
South Williamsport Tuesday, the West champions had their
opening-night match-up with New England rained out Friday, and
after an off-day Saturday, they found themselves to be the only
squad that hadn’t yet taken the field.
“The rainout just
killed us,” said starting pitcher Cody Thomson. “We wanted to play
Sunday, it showed.
North Carolina starter Andrew Martin was able to hold the hitters
from Thousand Oaks, Calif. off the scoreboard for the first two
innings, but the Westerners exploded for six runs on six hits in
the third en route to a 9-2 Pool A win at Lamade Stadium in front
of the largest crowd so far this week (17,600).
“We wanted to come out
here and make a statement,” said West coach Tom Ginther. “After 10
days of not playing, this was a great way to come back out here.”
Coming from a state
that has been to the Little League World Series Championship Game
19 times with five championships, Conejo Valley appeared primed to
uphold California’s reputation, banging out 13 hits and three home
runs to rival Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in terms of muscle.
“The California team
was a very disciplined hitting team,” said North Carolina coach
Alan Lail, whose team falls to 1-1. “They sat back and waited, and
hit the ball around the field.”
In the third, they
didn’t wait any more. Leadoff hitter and center fielder Timmy
Ginther started the big inning off with a perfect bunt single,
then trotted in on Danny Leon’s laser home run to dead center
field – Leon’s fourth home run in his last three games.
“I got a curveball on
a full count,” Leon said. “I just turned my hips like my dad’s
[coach Frank Leon] been telling me. That bat has so much pop.”
It turned out Thousand
Oaks had plenty of pop left, too. Sean McIntyre reached on an
error, Jordan Brower singled and pinch-runner Adam Justiniano
scored on John Lister’s sharp double. After Brower scored on a
passed ball, Thomson got the squeeze bunt down to plate Lister. To
cap the inning, 11-year-old Evan Ocello rapped a single, then
scored on Derrick Francis’s two-out double.
Conejo Valley added
three more in the fifth, when Tyler Karp and John Lister (four
straight games with a HR) started the inning with back-to-back
solo shots, then Justiniano walked and came around on Francis’s
single and second RBI.
“John and Tyler just
hit it far,” Leon said.
“It was low,” Lister
said of the pitch he clobbered to center field. “I just got the
barrel through and lifted it out.”
as impressive as Thousand Oaks’ fireworks were from the plate,
they also flashed an arsenal on the hill.
If not for a
(generously scored) leadoff single in the first inning by Aaron
Attaway, West starter and winning pitcher Thomson could have
gotten through his three innings without allowing a base hit. Both
times he put a pair of men on to start the inning (via Attaway’s
hit and walks in the first and third), he responded by getting the
next three, including five of his six strikeouts.
“He runs into these
predicaments every once in a while,” Tom Ginther said. “But he
settles down … He comes out there and shows his guts.”
He’ll get to do it
again on Tuesday, as the manager was able to take out Thomson
early to save his arm. Three pitchers (McIntyre, Brower and Karp)
each tossed an inning in relief.
“We got ourselves in a
good situation for the next two games,” Thomson said. “We’ve got a
lot of pitching left.”
North Carolina got on
the board in the fifth on Trevor Tallent’s second home run of the
tournament and Martin’s RBI single, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Still, Morganton Little League can give itself a good shot to
advance by beating New England tomorrow (Volunteer Stadium, 7
p.m.) in its final game of pool play.
“The one thing I was
proud of today was that we didn’t just lay down and quit,” Lail
said. “I think they’ll be ready to play tomorrow … They know
there’s nothing they can do about this game.”
Oaks won’t have much of a wait this time – they play 0-2 Midwest
tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Volunteer in hopes of all but clinching a
spot in the U.S. Semifinals.
“We just keep
playing,” Tom Ginther said. “I don’t predict anything.”
But now that South
Williamsport has finally seen Thousand Oaks play, other people
might start doing the predicting for them.
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