Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Thursday, August 23, 4:00pm ET
It was an obvious pitcher’s duel at Lamade Stadium on Thursday evening at the Little League World Series, but one wrong pitch by Mexico’s Ramon Ballina decided the outcome early on as the Latin America champions from Aguadulce, Panama, used a 2-run first inning bomb by James Gonzalez to narrowly defeat and eliminate the Mexico champions from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, 2-1, and advance to the International championship game on Saturday.
Both pitchers had stellar performances as each pitched a complete game and collected double digit strikeouts, combining for a total of 23. Mexico’s Ballina fanned 12 batters and scattered five hits while Latin America’s Edison Gonzalez struck out 11 and gave up five hits.
Fortunately for Latin America, one of those five hits was a 2-run shot over the left field fence, giving Latin America all the runs they needed to clinch the win. Both pitchers kept the opposing teams bats quiet the rest of the game.
“I am thankful to God I had the opportunity to hit my home run,” said Latin America’s James Gonzalez. “That home run allowed us to win the game.”
Mexico got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth after Marcelo Perez smoked a single up the middle that brought Eduardo Abrego home, who had ripped a double the batter before to safely reach.
Mexico threatened to score again in the bottom of the sixth inning when they had a runner on second with two outs, but Ballina struck out Andres Carrillo to seal the win for Latin America.
“Our pitcher did his job tonight,” said Latin America manager Luis Gonzalez. “We hit a home run at the right time and it allowed us to win the game.”
“It was a tough game for both sides and one pitch decided it,” he added.
Latin America advances to the International championship game against undefeated powerhouse Tokyo, Japan on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the Little League World Series championship game on Sunday afternoon.
Latin America knows how tough the game ahead of them will be and plans to mentally prepare. Japan defeated Latin America on Wednesday, 4-1.
“It’ll be a tough game but I think we can win,” said Luis Gonzalez. “I am going to motivate them to be confident going into the game.”