Game 22
13 vs. Mid-Atlantic 1
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
3:00PM ET

Strictly business
Richmond, Texas rolls again to get back to U.S. semifinal for second straight year

By Mike Lipka

Last year, the Lamar National Little League from Richmond, Texas was eliminated in the United States semifinal by Saugus, Mass. in a thrilling 14-13 affair.

Randal Grichuk is the only returning player from that team. But have the Richmond All-Stars all taken the loss very personally?

“I think it’s pretty obvious when these guys hit the field,” said Texas manager (both years) Jim Michalek, “it’s all business.”

Whichever is the case, the Southwest squad is taking no such chances so far this year, as they completed a ridiculous run through Pool B Tuesday, again displaying a deep offense and stellar pitching in a 13-1 win over Preston, Md. before 11,300 fans at Lamade Stadium.

Texas (3-0) banged out 12 hits and won its third straight game by at least 10 runs, finishing pool play having outscored its opponents 43-10.

“Everybody does something,” Michalek said. “These are good kids, good players. They’re used to contributing somehow, someway, and I think they did it again.”

Starting pitcher Matt Daniels did it again, in more than one way. The righty’s curveball was in rare form Tuesday, as he allowed just two hits in the complete-game effort while striking out 12 for his second win of pool play. He also went 3-for-4 with four RBIs (he has eight this week) and a game-breaking two-run homer (his second this week).

“He was pitching awesome,” said catcher Dan Homann. “He only missed one or two of his spots, and his curveball was working really well.”

“I’m just glad I’m on his team,” Grichuk added.

While Daniels dazzled, the Texans pounced on Maryland starter Davonta DeShields in the top of the first with a pair of clutch two-out hits. After Cody Abraham walked and Grichuk took one for the team (off the helmet), Tyler Ford’s two-out line drive to right snuck all the way to the wall, scoring both runners and sending Ford to third. Daniels then rapped an 0-2 offering to left for a base hit, bringing in Ford.

“It’s always important [to jump ahead early],” Michalek said. “I thought today maybe even more so. I thought their guy on the hill was throwing hard … I felt like we needed to respond in a hurry.”

That’s what DeShields did in the bottom of the first when he sliced into the lead with his solo home run off the retaining fence beyond the left field wall. But that was the only run the Mid-Atlantic could muster all afternoon.

“I wanted to show that home runs don’t really bother me that much,” Daniels said. “That particular one – it’s one hit and only one run. It didn’t hurt that bad.”

By the top of the third, when Richmond all but put it out of reach, it didn’t hurt at all. Joey Scheurich led off with a walk and scurried to third on a pair of wild pitches. Grichuk knocked him in with a base hit, but was then thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

Later in the frame, Daniel Homann singled, then after a fielder’s choice, Daniels drilled his second home run in South Williamsport.

“[Hitting home runs] is not really a secret,” Daniels said. “All you have to do is if you hit it at the correct point of contact, you get it at the right trajectory in the air, it’ll go.”

It really started to go for Southwest in the sixth, when Richmond banged out seven more runs on five hits – an inning that could end up eliminating Maryland if it comes down to the tiebreaker. DeShields hit three of the first five batters of the inning, and was then lifted.

After he came out, Grichuk whacked his third hit of the game (this week he’s 7-for-10 with seven runs scored and seven RBIs), while Daniels drilled an RBI double and Steven Crawford capped the inning with a run-scoring single.

“We knew keeping the run total down was the key to getting to the next round,” said Mid-Atlantic manager Curtis Payne. “We just were unable to do it.”

Maryland’s day was epitomized by a pitch to DeShields in the last of the sixth, when Daniels’ pitch sailed behind the batter, but nicked his bat for a foul ball.

But the loss and its 1-2 record, the Mid-Atlantic squad still has a shot to advance to a U.S. semifinal on Thursday. If the Great Lakes team from Owensboro, Ky. can earn its first win of the week tonight against 1-1 Redmond, Wash., there would be a three-way tie for second place that would come down to run differential.

“I think we need Kentucky to win, but we need Washington to score four more runs against them,” Payne said. “With [Owensboro ace Cole Sturgeon] on the mound, that’s gonna be a really tough chore.”

Richmond doesn’t have to worry about any of that. They’ll have another shot in a U.S. semifinal – against Morganton, N.C. Wednesday (8 p.m., Lamade) – after last year’s devastating defeat.

“From my vantage point, you’d always prefer to get a little bit further down the road than you did the year before,” Michalek said. “I would like to have a good showing at the [U.S. semifinal], but candidly, it’s only because if you don’t do that, you can’t play for the World Series Championship. And that’s why we came here.”

So it turns out it’s not personal for Richmond. It’s strictly business..

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© 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated