Game 26
West
6 vs. Southeast 2

Wednesday, August 24
7:30PM ET
Lamade Stadium

 
Pimen-tell me something new
Vista wins again, advances to US Championship


By Nick Williams

It had all the makings of a marquee matchup.

West vs. Southeast. Vista, CA vs. Maitland, FL.

Eighteen-strikeout kid Kalen Pimentel vs. Son of Major Leaguer Dante Bichette Jr.

Winner advances to the United States Championship.

With more than 15,000 in attendance and many more watching at home, the game lived up to its billing, showcasing an early back-and-forth battle, great defensive plays, a late Vista rally and an emotional ovation for a star player in Vista’s 6-2 victory over Maitland at Lamade Stadium.

Bichette kicked off the first inning by setting Vista down in order on two grounders to third and strike out of Nathan Lewis.

Pimentel followed by pitching a scoreless inning of his own, retiring leadoff hitter Max Moroff for his first out recorded that wasn’t a strikeout before surrendering a double to Bichette. But Pimentel struck out Skip Kovar and retired Mike Tomlinson a groundout to end the threat.

In the top of the second, Royce Copeland registered the first hit off Bichette when he smacked a double down the third base line. A passed ball by catcher Kyle Hamner permitted Copeland to go to third with Reed Reznicek at the plate.

When Reznicek struck out, the ball tipped off the glove of Hamner and rolled all the way to the backstop, allowing Copeland to race home for the game’s first run and a 1-0 Vista lead.

“I mean, this team is good without being ahead,” said Maitland skipper Sid Cash. “And we just couldn’t get up on them.”

And as they’ve done throughout the Little League Baseball World Series, Vista continued to punish the opposing pitcher its second time through the lineup.

Two groundouts by the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters brought the top of the Vista order up with two down in the third. Leadoff hitter Danny Vivier tripled to right and scored on an RBI single by Lewis, making it 2-0 Vista.

Pimentel followed with a double to left that put runners on second and third, but Copeland hit a chopper back to the mound that Bichette snagged and threw to first for the third out.

Maitland struck back in third, when with one out, Max Moroff and Bichette hit back-to-back singles to bring up Skip Kovar.

Kovar launched a Pimetnel offering deep to right centerfield. Rightfielder Daniel Gibney and centerfielder Reznicek backpedaled and converged on the ball, colliding at the wall as Gibney somehow pulled in the ball for an out.

“I was just focused on the ball,” Gibney said. “I jumped up and he jumped up and we kind of collided and I just came down with the ball.”

“I’m ecstatic,” Vista manager Marty Miller said of his feelings about Gibney’s catch. “He’s made some great catches, this isn’t the first time. It probably saved us the game.”

Moroff tagged up and went to third on the play. With two down, Tomlinson crushed a double into the left field corner, plating both Moroff and Bichette and evening the score at 2-2.

The seesaw battle continued in the fourth, when the bottom half of Vista’s order got a second look at Bichette.

Reznicek led things off with a full-count walk. A sacrifice bunt by Johnny Dee moved Reznicek over to second before Gibney singled to centerfield.

When a charging Lee Dunham overran the ball, Reznicek, already taking a wide turn around third, hustled home to give Vista the lead, 3-2.

In the top of the sixth, Vista came through with three runs to put the game out of reach.

Copeland doubled to score Pimentel (hit by pitch) and advanced to third on the throw home.

“I just wanted to hit the ball,” Copeland said of his. “I was looking for good pitches to hit and I got them and I drove them.”

With the score now 4-2, Bichette hit his second batter of the inning, Reznicek to put runners at the corners. After Reznicek stole second, Bichette uncorked a wild pitch that let Copeland score and moved Reznicek to third. Dee followed by knocking in the third run of the inning with a single that put an end to Bichette’s night.

Bichette tossed the ball to his reliever, Kovar, as manager Sid Cash gave him a pat on the back and the majority of the 15,330 in attendance stood up and applauded Bichette, recognizing the colossal tournament had by Maitland’s ace and slugger.

Bichette was 8-for-11 in four games with two homeruns, two doubles and four RBIs and 1-1 with 15 strikeouts in two starts.

“It was a great ride, and he’s what got the whole ride going,” Cash said of Bichette. “That kid is a champion. He’s the best player I’ve ever coached, but he’s the most humble kid and you hate to see a kid like that hurt.”

“I think we played very well,” Cash added. “That’s a credit to them. They’ve got a lot of good athletes and made a lot of great plays. There are no losers in Williamsport. I’m very proud of the way they’ve battled tonight.”

Game Photos

   

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