Tallent-ed bats spark
North Carolina settles down to take LLWS opener
over Davenport, Iowa
By Mike Lipka
first game of the Little League Baseball World Series had barely
started, and Trevor Tallent could have been the goat, but he ended
up being one of the heroes in a 10-4 victory for the Southeast
The Morganton, N.C.,
center fielder moved back to snag Jacob Gibson’s fly ball to
right-center with two outs in the top of the first, and the next
thing the 6,842 at Volunteer Stadium knew, the ball was off
Tallent’s glove and into the bushes beyond the 205-foot marker.
2-0, Davenport, Iowa.
“When I dropped the
ball, I was really disappointed,” Tallent said. “But I got over
It didn’t take long,
either. His chance for redemption came in the bottom of the
second, with his Southeast squad trailing the Midwest 3-2 in the
Pool A opener. Wasting no time, Tallent smoked line-drive
three-run homer off the base of the TV tower in center, giving an
offensive Morganton team the lead for good en route to an
“As has happened in
the past, the hitting pulled us through this time,” said Morganton
Manager Alan Lail. “Yesterday, the day before yesterday, and this
morning we’ve been hitting well in practice. I expect us to
continue hitting well.”
They certainly did
Friday afternoon, but not after some struggles on defense. A squad
that prides itself on always being loose (Lail and a few players
were dancing on the field with a mascot minutes before the first
pitch) came out understandably tight with nerves in the first few
innings on the big stage.
After Gibson’s fluky
home run in the first, Iowa jumped ahead again in the second on a
two-out double by Joseph Black and an RBI single by Cody Perrault.
But that’s when Morganton settled in.
“It’s just natural to
have nerves at the beginning of a World Series game,” said North
Carolina pitcher Eli Lawson, who allowed only one unearned run on
three hits over the final four innings of his eight-strikeout,
complete-game win. “In the third or fourth inning, I got my
confidence back, and it was good from then on out.”
As Lawson started
mowing down Iowa hitters, the Southeast champs were just getting
fired up. Morganton, dressed in North Carolina Tar Heel blue,
padded its lead to 8-4 on a two-run home run by Chris Fine in the
fourth, then capped the onslaught with two more on a hit, a walk
and a throwing error in the fifth.
“The first pitch, I
gripped the bat really tight,” said Fine, who went 3-for-4 with
three runs scored and two RBIs. “But then I said, ‘All right, I’m
just trying to hit a line drive.’ So I loosened my hands up and
just swung. Next thing I knew, it went over the fence.”
That was a problem for
Midwest ace Trevor Kenyon, who never seemed to overcome his
early-inning jitters, as he walked six and allowed eight runs in
four innings to take the loss. In addition to the home runs in the
second and fourth, North Carolina plated a pair in the first on
three walks, a hit and a passed ball.
“They hit the mistakes
that we made, a couple of home runs on pitches that were
curveballs up [in the strike zone],” said Davenport Manager Thomas
Kenyon, Jr. “It hurts obviously that we threw our No. 1 pitcher.
The kids have been down before, so having lost a game is not
something that’s critical to us.”
But the win could be
critical for North Carolina, which put itself in great position to
advance to single-elimination with two games left in pool play –
especially since it’s now over the early-tournament jitters.
“The first win is very
big,” said Lail, whose top three hitters (Aaron Attaway, Fine and
Tallent) combined for eight runs scored. “We always have two or
three step up and pull us through every game.”
And so he expects to
have the same kind of outcome when the Southeast squad is next in
action Sunday against the West squad from Thousand Oaks, Calif.
But spectators shouldn’t expect an encore of Lail’s dancing.
“You will not see that
again,” he laughed.
for box scores.