Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Day, August 24, 2011, 4:00pm ET
The Mexico region champs reached the International Championship game at the Little League Baseball World Series for the third time in the last four years Wednesday, but this time, it took them a bit longer to get there. And now, after a 2-1 victory over Venezuela that took a full nine innings to complete, the Seguro Social Little Leaguers are a bit closer to knowing what it’s like to play in the Major Leagues.
Both teams notched a run in the first inning, but from there, it was seven-straight frames of no-score ball.
Mexico pitcher Carlos Arellano settled in after an up-and-down first frame to pitch near-perfectly into the eighth, an unlikely feat since the establishment of the 85-pitch limit. Arellano threw 7.1 innings of four-hit baseball while striking out 11.
Even when his 85th pitch — a strikeout, of course — forced his exit, Arellano said he didn’t feel tired.
“I felt great, excited,” he said through interpreter Sergio Guzman. “I just wanted to keep throwing good pitches.”
Alongside dominant pitching, well-timed defense helped to extend the game. During the bottom of the sixth, with the game still tied at 1-1, Venezuela loaded the bases with no outs. But Arellano didn’t buckle. He struck out the next batter and then forced an impressive 1-2-3 double play that narrowly beat the runner at first to stop the Latin American threat and extend the game.
“That was the play of the game,” said Venezuelan manager Gustavo Narvaez through interpreter Luis Sanchez. “That is the reason Mexico got the victory.”
The next inning featured an equally impressive play, this time from Latin America. With two out and runners on first and second, Arellano lined a single to right field, essentially opening the door for the Mexican team to take the lead.
But Venezuelan right fielder Omar Conoropo Jr. had other ideas. He launched a one-hopper toward home plate, mere inches to the left of two cutoff men who reached for the ball before thinking better of it and letting the throw pass. Good thing too, as catcher Carlos Narvaez dove to his left, made an acrobatic sno-cone grab and tagged the runner out at home all in one fluid motion, preserving the tie and keeping the game alive.
Until the ninth.
There, Bruno Ruiz made sure good defense wouldn’t matter anymore. He launched a game-winning home run over the centerfield wall.
“Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone,” he said.
Mexico’s next game will be Saturday’s International Championship against either Japan or Latin America, two teams it has already beaten during this Little League World Series. Japan and Venezuela will faceoff Thursday for the right to rematch Mexico.