LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES: California clinches spot in U.S. championship game
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT — Grant Holman almost gave away a crucial victory with his arm, then took it back with his bat.
After being victimized for a three-run homer that put his Chula Vista, Calif., team in a hole on Wednesday night, the tall right-hander hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth, and California rallied for a 6-3 victory over New England champion Westport, Conn., to earn a berth in the U.S. championship game at the Little League World Series.
“All I wanted to do was hit it hard,” Holman said, his right arm in ice after a 10-strikeout performance and winning reliever Rennard Williams smiling at his side.
Micah Pietila-Wiggs laced a one-out single to left, his third hit of the game, to start the ninth and Jake Espinoza followed with a double to right-center before Holman connected off reliever Alex Reiner.
Chula Vista’s bullpen came up big, shutting down Westport over the final five innings.
“It was fabulous,” Chula Vista manager Rick Tibbett said about his relief corps. “That’s what they do.”
Matt Brown hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth for Connecticut, and the Northeast champions seemed headed for a big victory. But California shortstop Nick Mora hit his second homer of the game to make it 3-2 with one out in the top of the sixth and Chula Vista tied it when Reiner threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded.
The victory snapped Connecticut’s 20-game winning streak.
“It’s disappointing, of course, to lose,” Westport manager Tim Rogers said. “It’s painful to be so close to winning and lose.”
Westport plays Northwest champion Sammamish, Wash., today.
JAPAN 5, MEXICO 2: The big bats of Tijuana, Mexico, were silenced by Tokyo, Japan, in the first game Wednesday. When Brandon Montes crushed a home run off Japan starter Kazuki Ishida, the big bats of Mexico seemed ready to rumble again.
Taken out after three innings with an eye on a future game, Ishida slammed a tie-breaking home run in the bottom of the fifth inning and unbeaten Tokyo rallied past powerful Tijuana to earn a berth in the international championship game.
Ishida’s blast came off Tijuana starter Ramon Mendoza. Kouyou Mizushima followed with an RBI single and pinch-hitter Kyousuke Kobayashi capped the winning rally for Japan (3-0) with an RBI double off the left-center field wall.
Mexico (2-1) still has a shot. It will play Aguadulce, Panama, today.