Wild Wild West
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Sunday, August 23, 2009, 6:00pm ET
Despite how the story goes, sometimes Goliath wins.
No matter how hard David fights, how scrappy he is, no matter how many strikes he throws, he can only hold Goliath for so long.
What started out as a pitcher’s duel Sunday evening at Volunteer Stadium – the six hurlers combined for 24 strikeouts on the day – quickly turned into a game of truly Goliath slugging proportions as the New England champs fell to the West, 14-0, in a contest that wasn’t quite as simple as the score may seem.
“It’s a shame because if you look at the score, if you didn’t see the game, you’d see that we got blown out,” said New England manager David Batchelor.
In truth, the score was just 2-0 heading into the final inning.
“It’s a shame it ended that way,” he continued. “It should have been a 2-0, 3-0 game. But I guess if you saw it, and you know a little about baseball, you’d know that it was a good game.”
From the outset of Sunday’s contest – despite winning their first game of the 2009 Little League Baseball World Series, 15-0 – the Park View (Calif.) Little League (PVLL) squad didn’t have much of an answer for Peabody Western (Mass.) Little League (PWLL) pitcher Matt Hosman.
“You gotta give credit to their pitcher,” said manager Oscar Castro. “He was pretty much just challenging us. We just couldn’t put the ball in play as much as we wanted to, he was hitting spots, working location and he was getting that high strike that we were fishing for. He did a great job. You gotta tip your hat to him.”
After a scoreless first, Park View’s Oscar Castro threatened to break the stalemate in the top of the next frame when he led off with a double that rocketed between a diving Michael Petrosino and the second base bag, rolling all the way to the wall in right centerfield.
Hosman made quick work of the next two batters, but couldn’t put away nine-spot hitter Seth Godfrey, who snuck a ball under Petrosino’s glove and onto the outfield grass. It would be all Park View needed to score special pinch runner Nick Conlin, giving the visiting side a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the second.
A two-out, three-base error in the bottom of the third saw the New England side threaten to repay that run and knot the score, but Peabody wouldn’t be able to capitalize, stranding a runner for the third consecutive inning, something they would do in all six frames.
“We had some chances,” said Batchelor. “We got some guys on base and we couldn’t get that one extra hit.”
The West got back to the long ball that was so prevalent in their first win to open the fifth, as Godfrey took a 1-1 offering over the heads of outfield spectators in left center for a 2-0 edge. Two strikeouts and a hit batsman would end Hosman’s day on the mound, to be replaced by Matt Correale.
“He pitched great,” Batchelor said of Hosman. “They had two runs off of him – they should have had one. He kept us in the game until the fourth or fifth inning.”
Peabody would threaten again in the fifth with two outs, this time against reliever Sean McGrath, as a leadoff hit up the middle and a two-out poke put runners on board for Petrosino. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, but again the New England champs wouldn’t bring either around.
The West turned a leadoff double in the top of the sixth into their third run of the day, thanks to an RBI single into right centerfield off the bat of Daniel Porras Jr. Correale answered, retiring the next two batters in order.
And then, the flood gates opened.
With two outs and a special pinch runner waiting on second, Andy Rios got his first hit of the day, and in a big way. Taking Correale to the deepest part of the park, Rios’s ball glanced off the glove of a leaping Nick Bona and fell in beyond the centerfield fence for a 5-0 lead.
But the scoring wasn’t over. Back-to-back free passes lay the groundwork for a Kiko Garcia RBI single, scoring Bulla Graft from second to move the score to 6-0. Both Garcia and Ramirez would advance an extra base and into scoring position off a throwing error by Hosman, now at third base.
Bradley Roberto scooped up two more runs for his side with a double to right center, scoring himself two batters later to give his side a 9-0 lead. But the West wouldn’t – they couldn’t – stop there.
As the Park View Little Leaguers continued to hit, they continued to pile on the runs, bringing the score to 14-0 with Rios’s second home run of the inning.
“It [felt] good,” said Rios. “Coach just told me to stay back, wait for the perfect pitch and that’s what he gave me. And I hit it hard.”
In the end, eight-straight hits and 11 total in the frame would propel the proverbial Goliath’s of the Series – they have 10 home runs in just two games – to a 12-run final frame and the eventual 14-0 win over David. A pair of New England pitchers would face 17 batters in the inning and allow 11 two-out runs before finally recording the final out.
“It’s kinda tough because their pitcher is struggling and you don’t want to show up any team, but at the same, we don’t want our kids to let up,” said Castro. “So we stick to the same approach. We don’t want to stop the momentum because we don’t want it to affect our next game.”
“We all said to ourselves, ‘finally, we woke up,’” said Ramirez, who would record 11 strikeouts on the day and strike out the side in three of his four innings. “We got a couple hits up there and everybody just kept hitting and hitting and hitting, and we were able to put up 11. [And then we thought] OK, now we’re back.”
But Sunday’s matchup was about more that just offense.
Peabody shortstop Austin Batchelor proved that in the third, making a run at SportCenter’s top-10 plays with his seemingly impossible dive into shallow left to rob Roberto of a sure hit. The crowd held its collective breath as the ball, destined to touch down just beyond the infield dirt, found itself instead inside the glove of the outstretched Batchelor as he completed one of the most impressive plays of the tournament so far.
“Austin made a great play,” said his manager and father. “We were all pumped up. We were excited for him. He was excited.”
The game was also, until the final inning, a pitching matchup for the ages.
“I’ve always had confidence in our pitchers,” said Castro. “The bats, of course, take all the credit, but our pitching staff has been great. They’ve done a tremendous job keeping us in games so I think today we showed that we can stay in a tight game and our pitching staff is gonna do a great job for us.”
Both teams next take the field at Howard J. Lamade Stadium Tuesday afternoon, with New England taking on Great Lakes at 4 p.m. and the West challenging the Southwest champs in the 8 p.m. nightcap, the final pool play game of the tournament. With the win, Park View Little League has earned a spot in the U.S. semifinals along with the team from the Southwest (McAllister Park American Little League, San Antonio, Calif.) with their game on Tuesday determining the Pool B winner and runner-up.