Game 21: Canada 14 vs. Europe 13

Oh, Canada!!
Canada (1-2) wins a wild game against Europe (0-3) to close out Pool D play, 14-13

Author: Mark Rogoff - Special Correspondent

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 2:00pm ET

Even in the World Series games that don’t matter, they really do matter. When a pair of 0-2 teams are closing out pool play with a game against one another, it matters. Country pride is on the line, community pride in on the line, and the heart, soul, and spirit of the kids is on the line.

Not only that, it’s never over until it’s over…until the 18th out is recorded.

“You never know in a Little League game,” said Europe manager Ed Prince after his team’s Pool D finale with Canada.

Indeed, you never know.

After Prince’s team scored a resounding 11 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to erase a 10-2 deficit and make it 13-10, Canada came back in the top of the sixth with four of its own to retake the lead and win it, 14-13.

Trailing 13-12 with two outs in the inning, Canada’s Katie Reyes dumped a two-run single into right field to cap the comeback in front of 6,240 Little League fans at Volunteer Stadium.

“I was excited,” Reyes said. “I was shaking I was so nervous.”

Reyes’s late-inning heroics were made possible by the patience of Matthew Woo, who, down to his team’s last strike with a 2-2 count, took two straight balls to work the walk and load the bases for Reyes.

“It shows a little bit of character to come back and score four runs,” said Canada manager Vito Bordignon. “We didn’t want to go 0-3. That was the focus.”

Europe sent 14 batters to the plate in its 11-run fifth. Chris Holba’s grand slam with one out in the inning turned a 10-7 deficit into a temporary 11-10 lead.

“I was kind of shocked that they got all those runs,” said Canada shortstop Anthony Cusati. “We just got it together and came back to win it.”

Cusati finished the day 3-for-3 with two homers and five RBI. His two-run homer in the sixth started the rally, pulling Canada to within one at 13-12. He also hit a solo home run to lead off the third, making it 3-0.

The teams combined for 27 runs, tying the single-game record at the Little League Baseball World Series game since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2001. Saugus, Mass. and Richmond, Texas combined for 27 runs in a thrilling 14-13 win for the New England champs in 2003. Some say that was the greatest Little League World Series game of all time.

The all-time record at the Series for runs scored in a game is 29. In 1992, a team from the Dominican Republic defeated a club from Quebec, Canada, 29-0.

This year’s Canada squad from Vancouver, British Columbia did have to hold on in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs and the tying run on second base, second baseman Christian Cullen made a diving stop of Tyler Pecht’s grounder to the right side. Cullen got to his knees and threw out Pecht at first to end it.

“We still had to play hard,” Canada third baseman Matteo Vincelli said in reaction to giving up the 11 runs in the fifth. “We didn’t want to get shut out the whole tournament.”

The Europe team from Ramstein Air Base, Germany goes home winless. But the all-stars end on somewhat of a high note after being held scoreless in their first two games of the tournament, losing, 16-0, to Asia Pacific and 13-0 to Mexico.

“I was just glad to see them play,” Manager Prince said. “Finally we started hitting and got some stuff going. We just came out on the low side of that one. It stings a little bit, but finally Europe showed up.”