Game 26
Southwest 8 vs.
Northwest 2

Thursday, August 23, 2007
3:00PM ET


Lubbock Wild!
Southwest defeats Northwest, 8-2, to earn a spot in Saturday’s U.S. Championship

By Allie Weinberger
Special Correspondent

Everything’s bigger in Texas.

While the Lubbock Western Little Leaguers aren’t currently in Texas, they’ve brought their state motto with them to South Williamsport in the form of big bats, big-time pitching and some big scores.

And when the Texas bats heated up in the third and sixth innings Thursday afternoon against the Oregon, ace pitcher Garrett Williams had all he needed to throw 4.2 innings of two-hit relief en route to an 8-2 win.

The victory, which came in front of 11,200 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, vaults the Southwest champs into Saturday’s United States Championship Game.

“The kid who came in and closed the game, starting from the second inning, we knew he’s a great pitcher and we thought it’d be tough to get a lot of runs off him,” said Oregon manager Craig Ramey. “They’re just a well-rounded team, great pitching, strong on the field, an all-the-way-around good team.”

But it was Lake Oswego that took the early advantage in the second when a two-run single from pinch hitter Calvin Hermanson skipped under second baseman Stephen Smith’s glove. The 2-0 lead wouldn’t last long.

“We felt if we could score first and put some pressure on them, we’d have a good shot to keep it going,” said Ramey. “To their credit, they bounced back and got some runs of their own, but that hit by Calvin was huge.”

Despite seeing their first seven batters retired in order, the Southwest All-Stars started a one-out rally in the third, ignited by their first hit of the game.

That hit came off the bat of Jay Pendergrass, when the slugger laced an 0-2 offering over the head of the Oregon left fielder. Pendergrass came around to score two batters later on a fielder’s choice grounder, cutting Oregon’s lead in half, 2-1.

The inning continued with a single from Williams that put runners on the corners for top-slugger Bryndan Arredondo. And with one mighty swing, Arredondo wiped the bases clean with a three-run shot that cleared the 225-foot fence and the hedge behind it, erasing his club’s deficit in favor of a 4-2 lead.

“‘Oh it’s gone,’” manager Ed Thorne recalled saying as his slugger ran toward first. “I love coaching first base. To see some of those things launched – I know they’re gone. It’s a great view.”

Arredondo entered Thursday’s semifinal hitting at a .667 clip, and went 1-for-4 with three RBI in the game.

A single from Bo Ricks, coupled with a passed ball and wild pitch, drove in another run for Lubbock Western Little League in the top of the fourth, making it 5-2. Meanwhile, the Lubbock ace made easy work of his opponent – three up, three down – in the third and fourth.

“I just had to focus a little more and put the ball in the strike zone. And they couldn’t hit it,” said Williams. “I expect to dominate, but sometimes I’m on and sometimes I’m off.”

The champs from the Southwest added a trio of extra runs for good measure in the top of the sixth, compliments of Taylor Bridges’s three-run homer to left.

And while Southwest starter Taylor Bridges did his part for the first five outs, it was the switch to Williams with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the second that was the turning point in Texas’s success.

“It wasn’t that Bridges was doing a bad job at all,” said Thorne. “Those guys [Oregon] came out. So I knew we were gonna get in a smoke fight, and I knew we had the best smoke.”

“I’m sure they looked at it and said, ‘You know what? We’ve got [Oregon] guys on second and third, nobody out,’” said Ramey. “I think he looked at it and said, ‘We gotta throw our best out here to see if we can get to the next game.’ I thought it was a great move on his part.”

Lubbock Western Little League must wait for the results of tonight’s battle between Georgia and Arizona to see who it will face in Saturday’s clash to represent the U.S. in the World Series Championship.

But Texas won’t have access to Williams until Sunday, if they make it through, due to the mandatory rest allotted in the newly instated pitch counts.

“We like our chances,” said Thorne. “We still have almost all of our pitching staff.”

Williams’s stellar performance Thursday afternoon followed his previous near-perfect performance Saturday, when all 17 outs he recorded were by strikeout in his 5.2 innings of work.

Turns out the only thing that can stop Williams is his pitch count.
 


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