Game 24
West
9 vs. Southwest 3

Monday, August 23, 2005
7:30PM ET
Lamade Stadium

 
California love
Pimentel’s Vista wins in grand style to finish 3-0 in pool play

By Allie Weinberger

Lafayette, Louisiana shortstop Jace Conrad stared into the outfield at the ball that came off his bat in the third inning of the West vs. Southwest All-Star showdown Tuesday night at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

He flipped his bat and sauntered to first. No one saw him do much else – the eyes of all 12,850 spectators were on the solo shot that had just cleared the hedges beyond Lamade Stadium – more than 225 feet away.

But that was only the first, and that wasn’t even the most impressive.

The homer ingrained in Lafayette pitcher Ryan Bergeron’s mind tonight came from Vista slugger Kalen Pimentel, who hit his second grand slam of the 2005 Little League Baseball World Series over the center field wall in the top of the fourth to solidify Vista’s 9-3 win.

“I just tried putting good swing on it,” said Pimentel, who is also the team’s ace pitcher. “I struck out my last at bat.”

Louisiana manager Mike Conrad spent time before the Series looking for weaknesses in the California lineup, and knew the dangers of the West coast sluggers.

“You don’t hit your spots, you’re gonna get hurt,” he said. “Six to eight inches outside is six to eight inches outside seven days a week. You can’t leave it belt high and I went out and told Ryan that.”

Pimentel’s first grand slam came off Maine pitcher Joey Royer.

The fourth inning started with an Austin White walk and was followed by Josh Gomez and Nathan Lewis singles to load the bases for Pimentel. The starting catcher has hit three home runs with 13 RBI in his three Series games.

When asked how the ball looked to him when he was at the plate, Pimentel said, “not as big as a pumpkin, but pretty close.”

But there were other powerful slugs tonight at Lamade.

A single to left field put Royce Copeland on base to lead off the bottom of the third and set up Reed Reznicek, who went 1-for-3, for a 225-foot monster home run that hit the hedges in center field. Reznicek’s home run scored two more and gave Vista the 5-1 lead.

“You can’t let a group like this get any momentum whatsoever,” said the Louisiana skipper.

And then there were the near misses.

Andrew Stevenson got the night started with a leadoff bunt, and moved to second on a Brenn Conrad single to left center field. With two on and two out, Connor Toups, Louisiana’s Game One hero, stepped to the plate and drove a high fly ball back to the warning track in center field before Reznicek pocketed it and ended Louisiana’s drive.

“We basically choked it up at the plate,” Mike Conrad said. “It’s almost like you could feel it coming.”

And in the bottom of the first, three innings before his grand slam, Kalen Pimentel nearly took one out of the park after back-to-back walks.

Southwest's Tyler Douglas, who was on deck for Conrad's third inning shot, came to the plate and hit a long fly ball that found earth on the left field warning track and bounced off
the outfield wall. After a fielder’s choice out from the next batter, the Vista players had yet another scare. Bergeron took White’s offering deep, where Sam Scofield caught it with his back against the center field wall.

“I don’t think we saw any one of us pitch our big dogs,” California manager Marty Miller said. “It should have been a slug fest.”

Then there were the fantastic catches, hidden in the shadows of the fired up bats.

Copeland ripped one down the left field line in the first for an RBI double that allowed leadoff man Danny Vivier to cross home plate. A beautiful diving catch by Lafayette second baseman Jace Conrad robbed Reznicek of a single before Johnny Dee drove the second run across the plate with a ball hit hard back to the mound. The hit skipped off pitcher Toups’s glove and into center.

After a Daniel Gibney walk loaded the bases, Toups hit Vista first baseman Ryan Gura with a pitch to force in the third run of the inning.

So with two outs in the bottom of the first and pitcher Austin White (batting in the nine-hole) at the plate, Conrad took Toups off the mound in favor of Bergeron. Bergeron came in from first base to retire the side on a called third strike and keep the score 3-0.

Vista’s Copeland took the mound in the fourth to face Lafayette’s Scofield. The center fielder took one into left for the single that threatened to kick start a Southwest rally. Scofield took second off a Copeland wild pitch before Andreas Duplantis hit a single into left field. A Gibney throwing error scored Scofield from third.

With a runner on second, Romero laced a single to right to put runners on the corners for Alex Stringer. Stringer drew a no-out walk to load the bases as Brenn Conrad stepped into the box.

Brenn Conrad struck out, bringing Jace Conrad to the plate. Strike three passed by catcher Romero, and Duplantis ended the Louisiana drive when he was thrown out trying to take home on the passed ball."

“I’m very disappointed in the way we had run the bases tonight,” said Mike Conrad. “This was a 9-3 game, but believe me, it could have been 20-3. Once they start feeding on you, it’s gonna get ugly quick.”

Down 9-3 with two outs in the top of the sixth, Douglas got a second chance to bring his team back when Romero dropped a foul ball with two runners on in scoring position. Douglas took the next pitch deep to center field, where it was caught just before it could skirt over the 205-foot wall.

“We’ve won 23 straight games now,” said Miller. “We don’t want to teach them how to lose.”

Louisiana will take on Hawaii at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Vista will pitch ace hurler (and slugger) Pimentel against Southeast Champs Maitland, Florida, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lamade Stadium.

“I’m just going to go out there and concentrate on each pitch that I throw,” said Pimentel.

“You’ll see a battle of No. 1’s go at it,” said Miller. “The guy that blinks is gonna lose the game.”

Game Photos


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