How the West Won
Chandler, Ariz. earns spot in U.S. semifinals with 9-2 triumph over
Coon Rapids, Minn.
By Allie Weinberger
The field is finally set.
Backed by a seven-run fifth inning and a lights-out performance by
starting pitcher Seth Fretheim, the champs from the West trampled
their Midwest rivals, 9-2, in Pool B action Wednesday night in front
of 9,600 in and around Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
With Lubbock, Texas already set to advance out of the pool, the
stakes were high: it was win-and-you’re-in, and both teams knew it.
The scoring got going early, and after four innings the game was all
knotted up at 2-2. And that’s when the West champs made their move –
a couple of them.
But not before Minnesota made a move on the mound. With starter Adam
Recksiedler sitting at 75 pitches through four innings, the Midwest
champs passed the ball to hurler Tanner Lowe to start the fifth.
With a new and unfamiliar pitcher on the mound, Fretheim worked a
leadoff walk before Cody Bellinger hit a bloop single into shallow
left field. A wild pitch two batters later moved the runners into
scoring position, threatening to break the 2-2 deadlock.
“Our game plan is offense,” said Arizona coach Clay Bellinger.
“There’s not a whole lot of defense to our offense. We don’t bunt a
lot, if a guy’s on second base, we try to move him over, but it’s
not a big thing – we don’t preach that. If a guy’s on base, we want
these kids swinging.
“Let the kids play,” he echoed. “Let him swing his bat and good
things will happen.”
And they did.
A walk to Matthew Haggerty loaded the bases for Kyle Pechloff with
just one out in the inning, and Pechloff came through with a sharp
line drive down the left field line. The single scored two runs to
make it 4-2. Pechloff took second on the throw home.
But the inning was far from over for Lowe and his teammates. Pinch
hitter Boston Whitlow’s groundout scored Haggerty from third, moving
Pechloff to third with two outs for Connor Woods.
Woods slapped an RBI double to bring in his teammate and make the
score 6-2, while the next batter, Scott Wojnar, singled Woods in
before getting himself into – and safely out of – a rundown between
first and second.
No. 9 hitter Jake McCann kept the rally alive, drawing a two-out
walk before Fretheim came around again to bring both Wojnar and
McCann home with a two-run double to the warning track, making the
score a whopping 9-2.
And that would be all for Lowe, who was relieved by Anthony Mrosla.
“Tanner took it hard today,” said Minnesota manager and dad Mark
Lowe. “I’ve never seen that with Tanner before. We’ll spend some
time tonight, but it’s tough. He had a great series and he’ll
understand in the near future that he should be very proud of
Mrosla got Cody Bellinger to pop up for the final out of the fifth
inning, which was detrimental to the Midwest champs.
“You never know [when the bats will come alive],” said Fretheim. “We
might strike out the side the first inning and the next inning come
back and everybody gets a base hit.”
“I knew once we got on base we’d put some pressure on them, and
that’s exactly what happened,” said Arizona coach Clay Bellinger.
All-in-all, the top of the fifth saw the Chandler National Little
Leaguers bat around the order, scoring seven runs on five hits to go
up 9-2 – a score that would stick.
“For one reason or another we didn’t have quality at bats,” said
Lowe. “But like I told the kids, we are in Little League Baseball
But it was Minnesota who drew first blood in the game. A Lowe single
in the top of the first brought home Dominique Reff, who had doubled
two batters earlier. The Midwest champs would strand one in the
bottom of the first and score again in the second to go up 2-0, when
starter Recksiedler turned his double into a run (thanks to a
fielder’s choice and a wild pitch in subsequent batters) before
Fretheim was able to strike out the side.
Recksiedler made fairly easy work of the West in the first two
innings, allowing a hit and a walk with four strikeouts to preserve
his side’s 2-0 shutout.
“That kid, he was lights out,” said Bellinger.
But Arizona would come back to tie it in the top of the third, when
Fretheim took Recksiedler deep with Jake McCann already on second.
“I got up to the plate confident, got two strikes on me early,” said
Fretheim. “[But] he gave me a fastball and I was looking for
fastball low and inside.
“If I get a good swing,” he said, “I know if I tell myself I can,
I’ll be confident.”
And there was defense, to compliment the potent offense, from the
West champs on the field as well.
In the bottom of the fourth, Pechloff – in his third position of the
game – made the top play of the night, diving backward toward second
base to field a line drive off the bat of Coon Rapids pinch hitter
Peter Anderson to close out the inning.
“I haven’t played second base throughout my career,” said Pechloff.
“So I just saw the ball coming to me, dove for it and got it, and
threw it to first base.”
The Coon Rapids Little Leaguers went down in order in the bottom of
the fifth inning. Msosla finished off the heart of Arizona’s order
in the top of the sixth without any further damage, but Minnesota
was down to its last three outs.
Just three little outs kept the Chandler boys from their dreams and
the boys from Coon Rapids clutching onto theirs for dear life.
And the closing job fell to who else, but Kyle Pechloff – the man
who got the scoring rally going an inning earlier and made the
(likely) top-10 nominee grab at second – to finish the gem his
teammate Fretheim had started.
And the inning went like this:
Dominique Reff: down on strikes. Cody Herrmann: hit by a pitch.
And while a Lowe single skipped under the glove of shortstop Luke
Parrish and a passed ball moved the runners into scoring position,
Pechloff finished off his Pool B rivals with cool confidence,
getting Nathan LaBrant to go down on three straight strikes.
“They’re champions,” Lowe told his team after the loss. “Guys, hold
your heads high, walk around this place for the rest of the week.
You are champions.”
Fretheim finished the game 2-for-3 with four RBI. He threw five
innings, allowing just a trio of hits and a pair of runs with one
walk and eight strikeouts.
Recksiedler threw four innings, giving up three hits, two runs and
two walks with six strikeouts.
Now, the West champs go on to face the Southeast champs for Georgia
in Thursday’s x p.m. United States semifinal.
“We didn’t come here to come in fourth, we came here to win it,”
said Bellinger. “We’re happy to be where we are, but we still got
three more games to go, hopefully.
“We feel we’re as good as anybody, so we’ll see what happens
tomorrow,” he added. “If we play the way we can – it’ll be a good
© 2007, Little League Baseball
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