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On the 86th pitch, in the seventh inning, West's Grant Holman completed a no-hitter and made Little League Baseball® World Series history. Since the pitch count rules were implemented in 2007, a pitcher has never thrown an extra-inning no-hitter in the World Series. That changed Friday night when, behind Grant’s performance on the mound, West beat Great Lakes 3-0 in seven innings at Lamade Stadium.
"It feels good," said Holman. "It also feels great that we went out there and won our first game."
If Great Lakes' second-to-last batter had ended his at-bat after one more pitch -- the 86th -- Holman would have reached his limit for the night, and wouldn't have been able to face Great Lakes' last batter. Instead, Holman was able to start the final batter of the game because he had thrown 85 pitches. A pitcher cannot start a batter after 86 pitches.
It's the first no-hitter thrown to go into extra innings by one pitcher in the pitch-count era, and just the second time in Little League Baseball World Series history a pitcher has completed a no-hitter in extras. Han-Chao Dai from Chinese Taipei did it in 1979 in the championship game, pitching eight innings.
Holman tossed seven innings, 86 pitches and struck out 13 Great Lakes batters from Grosse Pointe, Mich. Great Lakes’ only base runner was James Mazzola, who walked in the third inning.
West manager Rick Tibbett said he didn't hesitate to use Holman in the seventh even though he had thrown 77 pitches after six.
"We felt we could get a couple outs from Grant," Tibbett said on why he used the right-hander in the seventh. "We had a pitcher coming in to finish it off. But it worked out really well."
While Holman dealt the no-hitter, Great Lakes' starter Chad Lorkowski also pitched a gem, striking out 12. He allowed just one hit, from lead-off batter Micah Pietila-Wiggs in the first inning.
"He just throws hard," Great Lakes' manager Tom Mazzola said of his starter. "He's got a nice curveball. He can go with that little submarine. He kept them off-balance. They just had a couple of hits there that extended the pitch count."
Pietila-Wiggs also made a diving play at second base to keep Holman's no-hitter alive in the fourth.
After just six innings, the two teams had a combined three base runners. But West broke the game open in the top of the seventh inning when Giancarlo Cortez reached on a lead-off hit. Rennard Williams followed that with another hit, and Patrick Archer drove the two in, breaking the 0-0 tie.
The offense from Chula Vista, Calif., added one more run in the seventh inning, and then Holman was able to get a ground out, a strike out and finally another ground out to his catcher to complete the no-hitter.
"We weren't nervous," Cortez said of playing defense during the no-hitter. "It wasn't really in my head until the last inning, and we just knew that if we played defense good, we don't have to worry about it."
Holman's no-hitter is the first of the 2013 tournament. Two were pulled off during last year's World Series.
"Probably just a high-five," Holman said on how he will thank his teammates for the defense. "It feels good knowing you have a really good defense behind you when you're pitching."
Great Lakes will take the field again on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 8 p.m. at Lamade Stadium. West will return on Sunday, Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. also at Lamade Stadium.