Houston, we have liftoff!
Pearland, Texas, suburb of Houston, holds on for 10-8 win over Plymouth, Minn.
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Friday, August 20, 2010, 3:00pm ET
In years past, the best way for a coach to manage his pitching staff was to
find one dominant pitcher and throw him as much as possible during the
tournament. However, with stricter limits on how much and how often pitchers can
throw, the new strategy seems to be “the more, the merrier.”
A combined 11 pitchers were used in Pearland, Texas’ 10-8 triumph over Plymouth, Minn. today at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, exactly half of the 22 players that make up both teams’ rosters. Thanks to the constant cycling of pitchers, a result of both desperation and strategy, the marathon match lasted 2 hours and 43 minutes.
The Southwest jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two innings, allowing them to get creative with their bullpen. Their creativity almost came back to haunt them, as Minnesota cut the lead to 10-4 by the sixth inning. Despite piecing together a gritty comeback in the game’s final inning, capped by a Colin Quinn grand slam, the Midwest was not able to surmount the early deficit.
The Southwest will face Fairfield, Conn. Sunday at 8:00 p.m., while the Midwest team will square off against Auburn, Wash. tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. in the first pool-play elimination game under the tournament’s new format.
“You gotta roll the dice,” said Texas Manager Mike Orlando. “I’d like for Mason to be able to go the whole game, but hey, I’ve got everybody for next time.”
The Southwest began their assault in the first inning when third baseman Blake Toler and catcher Jake Orlando connected for a pair of home runs that would send the Texas squad ahead 3-0 before Minnesota even had a chance at the plate.
After holding the Minnesotans scoreless, Texas sent 11 batters to the plate in the second and scored five more times to make it 8-0.
On the defensive side of the ball, starting pitcher Mason Van Noort led off a dominating pitching performance by the Southwest. In 2 1/3 innings, Van Noort faced eight batters and struck out five. With the lead seemingly secure, manager Orlando pulled Van Noort from the mound to avoid reaching the pitch count threshold that would have prevented him from pitching in their next contest.
The Midwest capitalized on Van Noort’s absence by scrapping together two runs on one hit, a single by pinch-hitter James Ripley, which reduced the Southwest lead to 8-2 at the end of the third.
The Texans would not back down, as Jake Orlando blasted another home run in the top of the fourth, a solo shot to left-center field that pushed the lead to 9-3.
The Minnesota All-Stars, however, kept finding a way to manufacture runs against the stingy Southwest pitching staff.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Midwest hitters pushed two runs across the plate without hitting a ball out of the infield.
Southwest first baseman Jorge Gutierrez responded in the top of the fifth by sending a line drive well up the left field berm for a solo home run, extending the lead to 10-4.
The Midwest bats were quiet until the bottom of the sixth, when Quinn hit a two-out grand slam to cut the deficit to two. After a walk brought the tying run to the plate, manager Orlando called on Toler, his sixth pitcher of the day, to finish out the game.
Toler, who sparked the Southwest offense with a home run in the top of the first, ended the game by striking out Mitchell Verbeten.
“I thought our guys competed really well,” said Midwest manager John Vecere of the team’s comeback. He noted how the team’s members were able to stay positive and hopeful throughout the game.
“Our team’s a real close-knit group,” he said. “They know they always have a chance if there’s an out left.”
With an effort like today’s, Vecere said, “Their spirits should be high right now [heading into tomorrow’s elimination game].”
Though giving up eight runs—six earned—over six innings, the Southwest pitchers yielded only three base hits. The Texans walked nine and hit three Minnesota batsmen.
Talor Blustin accounted for the Midwest’s only other hit with a single early in the sixth. He finished 1-for-1 with three walks and an RBI. The Southwest’s Jake Orlando finished 4-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI.
“I’ve watched the Little League World Series my whole life,” said Orlando. “First game at Lamade Stadium and you go 4-for-4, doesn’t happen very often. So I’m pretty excited about it.”