By Will Desautelle
Epitacio “Mala” Torres Little League from Mexico is in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for its first appearance, and their pitching staff has continued to help their Little League® dreams to come true.
Santiago Leija, the leader of Mexico’s “Fearsome Four” pitching staff, tossed a complete game shutout, allowing just two hits and striking out 11 batters against Canada. Both hits he allowed were bunt singles.
“He was constantly in the strike zone like he has been all year,” said manager Alejandro Garza. “He was aggressive with his fastball and changed his pace well with his breaking ball.”
Santiago pounded the strike zone with his 70-plus mile per hour fastball and sweeping curveball that kept the Canadian hitters off balance. It was about as dominant of a performance one will see from a Little League pitcher.
“I felt very good and was comfortable throwing my curveball throughout the game,” Santiago said. “I knew that if I controlled the strike zone we would have a good chance to win.”
Santiago is just one of four pitchers on this Mexico team who are capable of that type of performance. Santiago, along with Marcelo Herrera, Angel Castillo, and Ivan Sauceda have earned the collective Fearsome Four label from their teammates as a result of being nearly unhittable in practice all season.
“They have performed very well all year for us,” Garza said. “They’ve made it difficult for opposing teams to put runs on the board against us.”
In the regional tournament, Epitacio “Mala” Torres Little League held their opponent under three runs in five of their seven games. Their dominant pitching is a key reason why they are the first team from their league to ever represent the Mexico Region at the Little League Baseball World Series.
Santiago and Marcela, the team’s top two pitchers, complement each other very well too. While Santiago throws the hardest fastball on the team, Marcelo’s best pitch has been his slow, sweeping curveball.
“Games in this tournament are going to be won by good pitching,” Marcelo said. “We need to make teams here earn the runs they get.”
In Williamsport, pitching is always crucial, and this Mexico team has the arms to succeed against the best competition in the world.
“It is a lot of responsibility for us as the top pitchers on this team,” Santiago said. “We have a responsibility to stay composed and be our best on the mound.”