Game 13
1 vs. Transatlantic 0
Saturday, August 21, 2004
7:00PM ET

Oscar’s no grouch
Garza rips walk-off home run as Mexico stays alive in eight-inning thriller

By Mike Lipka

Mexico’s Ismael Garcia and Saudi Arabia’s Joel Reimer were both so good on the hill, they out-dueled each other. When Oscar Garza finally got his shot, he made sure the same thing wouldn’t happen to him.

Garcia and Reimer matched zeroes on Volunteer Stadium’s scoreboard for six innings, and Little League rules state that after the full six, both starters have to come out. So after firing two scoreless innings of his own in relief, Garza led off the bottom of the eighth with a walk-off home run that just snuck over the right-field fence to give Guadalupe, Mexico the 1-0 victory and keep them alive in Pool D in front of 4,800 fans.

“It felt great,” Garza said through translator Micah Hughes. “There was a lot of emotion for having hit that home run.”

For the Transatlantic Champions from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (1-1), it was their second straight extra-inning game in South Williamsport, but this one didn’t have as happy an ending (the first was a 4-1 win over Saipan). Eleven-year-old Alex Robinett relieved Reimer in the seventh, and after scorching the side in order with two strikeouts in his first inning of work, Garza slapped Robinett’s second offering of the inning to the opposite field and was mobbed by his teammates at home plate.

“It was a game of life or death,” said Mexico manager Gerardo Leal through Hughes, whose team is now 1-1 after it dropped its opener to Curacao, 3-2. “Because of the home run, we’re still alive. Thank God we’re still alive.”

Since he pitched two innings and earned the win tonight, Garza – Mexico’s No. 3 pitcher – will not be allowed to pitch tomorrow in another do-or-die game against Pacific. Instead, Victor Gonzalez will go against Saipan.

“You have to go with what you have now,” Leal said, “because if you don’t win now, you don’t go on.”

Saudi Arabia’s still going on because in its first game, the Arabian-American All-Stars escaped severe trouble in the bottom of the sixth before staging the winning rally in the top of the seventh. Sunday night, however, they were on the other side of the coin, as they failed to bring the go-ahead run home from third in the seventh, only to falter in the eighth.

“[The seventh] was our opportunity,” said Saudi manager Tommy Bumstead. “You tip your hat to Mexico. [Garza] did a great job of getting out of the jam.”

There weren’t many jams through six full innings, as each team only managed to get one runner to third base.

“The way both teams were playing, I thought we could be here at midnight tonight playing baseball,” Bumstead said. “It was a heck of a game by both teams.”

Garcia (12 strikeouts, one walk) was overpowering, firing 87 pitches (56 for strikes) in his six innings of work. After allowing his only hit – Charles Fitzmaurice’s single to right to lead off the third – he retired the next 12 batters he faced, including seven strikeouts.

“I have so much confidence in my teammates. I know they have good bats and good pitching other than myself,” Garcia said through Hughes. “The important thing is that we won.

“It was a little nerve-racking the fact that I had to concentrate on not making any mistakes at all,” he added.

Reimer was almost as sharp, scattering three singles and two walks while ringing up eight. The right-hander only retired the side in order once, but continually frustrated the Mexicans with a good fastball and a back-breaking curve, and needed 85 pitches (60 strikes) to get through six scoreless.

“He’s one of our returnees … That’s why we gave him the ball today,” Bumstead said. “He did a jam-up job of pitching the ball today for us.”

Jammed-up is the only way you could now describe Pool D, easily the pool with the most parity so far with two extra-inning affairs and a one-run nail biter. Both Mexico (vs. Pacific, 1 p.m., Lamade Stadium) and Saudi Arabia (vs. Caribbean, 5 p.m., Lamade Stadium) finish up pool play tomorrow, and the same could be said of both 1-1 squads.

“We still have another game tomorrow,” Bumstead said. “We go out and win it, we’re in the show.”

While that may be true, so far, Pool D has been the show.

Click here for box scores

© 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated