Game 28
United States Semi-Final

3 vs.Mid-Atlantic 1
Thursday, August 26, 2004
6:00PM ET

West bests Maryland
Thousand Oaks defeats Preston, Md. 3-1 in final US semifinal

By David Graham-Caso

Going into Thursday evening’s United States semifinal, the South Caroline Little League from Preston, Md. was hitting just .131 as a team. That’s eight hits in 61 at-bats. Their opponents in the semifinal match up, the Conejo Valley Little League from Thousand Oaks, Calif. reached the semifinal on the strength of, among other things, a booming offense. The West Regional Champions had 26 hits in 72 at bats, good for a .361 team average, and it was clear that the statistics made Thousand Oaks an overwhelming favorite.

This time around, the numbers lied.

To a degree, Maryland exceeded expectations. The Preston All-Stars went hit-for-hit with the high powered offense of Thousand Oaks for five innings, racking up seven base knocks, just one shy of his team’s three-game total leading up to Thursday’s game. Unfortunately for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Champions, the game lasted six innings. With the help of a John Lister solo shot to center in the top of the sixth inning, Thousand Oaks (4-0) bested Maryland (1-3) 3-1 in front of a 2004 Little League World Series high-crowd of 19,185 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

“We were flat,” Lister said. “We were not swinging the bats well. I think we were too cocky going into this game, and it showed.”

Maryland manager Curtis Payne knew coming into the game that it was going to be a battle.

“We knew that this was one of the toughest games we were going to have,” he said. “We played as well as we could, we got a lot of hits, their pitcher just spread them out.

“I am really proud of my guys,” he added.

Sean McIntyre was deadly both on the hill and at the dish. The lefty scattered seven hits, allowing only one-run in his five innings of work, and was 3-for-3 with two RBI at the plate.

“I felt really confident at the plate, I felt ready to hit,” he said. “I guess I pitched OK. I was getting the ball up a lot and that is why they got so many hits off of me. I could have pitched better.”

West manager Tom Ginther was not as solemn about his starter’s performance.

“Sean did a heck of a job today,” he said. “He got three hits and controlled the game on the mound. He came right out and boom, went after them.”

Thousand Oaks made its mark on the scoreboard first. Timmy Ginther reached first with one out by laying a bunt down the third base line, and then scored from first when McIntyre lined a double to right.

The usually potent Thousand Oaks offense stalled for the majority of the game, only able to score one run through the first four innings. Maryland took advantage of Thousand Oaks’ lack of offensive prowess and tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Ben LaNeve snuck a line drive inches inside the left field foul line with one out to advance to second with a double. LaNeve was moved over to third on a Ryan Hood groundout, and then scored on an infield single by Thomas Howe. Howe’s grounder to first would have been the third out of the inning, but the speedy outfielder beat Thousand Oaks first baseman Danny Leon back to the bag to allow LaNeve to score.

“That was a turning point for us,” Tom Ginther said. “We woke up after that.”

The score did not remain deadlocked for long. In Thousand Oaks’ next turn at the plate, the West Champions put together a two-out rally to go up 2-1. After the first two batters of the inning were retired on two pitches apiece, Leon sent a sky-high fly ball to shallow left field. Maryland third baseman Tyler Garvey misjudged the ball, allowing Leon to reach second. McIntyre again helped his own cause, sending a single to left that plated Leon.

Lister was the first Thousand Oaks hitter in the top of the sixth. The catcher, who had already reached base twice on the day, demolished the Robbie Payne offering to center. Centerfielder Davonta DeShields didn’t even move as the line drive sailed over his head. The Lister blast gave Thousand Oaks a 3-1 advantage which the deep West pitching staff would be able to maintain.

“I never go up to the plate trying to hit a homerun,” Lister said. “I just try to get base hits. Luckily I got a pitch that I could drive and it went out.”

With a two-run lead, Tom Ginther opted to bring in Cody Thompson to finish off Maryland. Thompson got the job done, striking out two, including Nikolaus Nowottnick to end it.

With the victory, Thousand Oaks advances to the highly anticipated showdown between also undefeated Richmond, Texas in the United States Championship on Saturday.”

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 © 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated