Pa. team advances to Little League World Series final
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It’s safe to say 12-year-old Chayton Krauss had never before caused 46,000 people around him to erupt into screams of euphoria.
Krauss hit an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday, giving Lewisberry, Pa., a 3-2 victory over Pearland, Texas, and a berth in the Little League World Series championship game.
‘‘It felt awesome and it was amazing to get that hit and it felt great,’’ he said. ‘‘I just remember that he had a decent fastball and decent curveball and I got a fastball and just drilled it.’’
Krauss drove in Braden Kolmansberger, who had walked and moved to third on Jaden Henline’s one-out single.
Cole Wagner struck out 11 over 5⅔ innings and hit a home run for Lewisberry, which is just a two-hour drive from Williamsport.
Undefeated Lewisberry will play undefeated Japan for the championship Sunday.
Fans were already lining up for the game at 6 a.m. for the 3:30 p.m. start, helping set a single-game attendance record of 45,716.
‘‘As far as you could see there were people,’’ said Lewisberry manager Tom Peifer. ‘‘They were loud. I kept saying, ‘Let’s give them something to cheer about.’ ’’
Wagner did that with a homer in the bottom of the first inning to give Pennsylvania a 1-0 lead.
But Texas used some timely base running to tie the score in the second.
Zack Mack doubled and Tristen Schwehr singled to put runners on first and third. Pinch runner Raffi Gross scored when Schwehr stole second base and the throw to second careened off Wagner’s glove as he tried to cut it off.
The Pearland team took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Marco Gutierrez doubled to right-center field. That scored Mack, who came all the way around from first base after walking.
‘‘We try to get them to block out the fans,’’ Pearland manager Andrew Soloman said. ‘‘It’s pretty amazing that they’re 12 and 13 and they can block it out and play at this level on this stage. [I'm] just really proud of what they did on the field and off the field all tournament.’’
Trailing, 2-1, Henline hit a home run for Lewisberry to tie it at 2 in the bottom of the fourth.
Wagner received a standing ovation when he came out after striking out the first two batters in the sixth inning and reaching the 85 pitch limit.
Ryan Farmer threw five innings for Texas. Its three top pitchers were unavailable after being used to make it through the losers’ bracket after falling to Lewisberry, 3-0, earlier this week.
Farmer, mixing some off-speed stuff with his fastball, struck out six and gave up just two hits, the Pennsylvania home runs.
He was replaced by Gutierrez after walking Kolmansberger to open the sixth. Gutierrez struck out Wagner, who came into the game batting .625 for the series, before giving up the back-to-back hits to Henline and Krauss.
This was Pearland’s third trip to the Little League World Series since 2010. All three times, it has lost to the eventual US champions.
A Pennsylvania team had not won the US title since a team from Shippensburg did it in 1990 and has not won the World Series title since Levittown accomplished that feat in 1960.
‘‘It was awesome just to get here,’’ Krauss said. ‘‘Now that we’re in the championship game, it’s just an awesome feeling.’’
. . .
Yugo Aoki singled for his team’s first hit in the seventh inning, and then scored on a fielder’s choice to help Japan beat Mexico, 1-0, for a spot in the championship game.
The run came home when Mexico was unable to turn a double play on a bases-loaded ground ball by Koki Jo.
Japan’s Kabu Kikuchi and Mexico’s Armando Verdugo both submitted impressive pitching performances. Kikuchi allowed four hits and struck out 10. Verdugo also struck out 10 and gave up just two hits, both in the extra frame.
‘‘I knew today was going to be my last day as a Little League pitcher so I put 100 percent of my energy into every single pitch,’’ Kikuchi said through a translator. ‘‘The Mexican pitcher was very good so I tried not to allow any runs.’’
Mexico dropped to 0-6 against Japan in its last three Little League World Series. It is 11-0 against everyone else in the same stretch.
Aoki led off the seventh with a grounder to shortstop Jorge Armenta, who made a nice play on a bad hop but was unable to get Aoki at first. Kengo Tomita then doubled over the head of left fielder Ernesto Rios.
Kikuchi reached after catcher Raul Leon dropped a third strike and didn’t throw to first. Verdugo then struck out Nobuyuki Kawashima, but Jo hit a ground ball past the pitcher to drive in the winning run.
Mexico’s biggest threat came in the fifth inning. First baseman Daniel Zaragoza hit a leadoff double to left-center and advanced on a sacrifice by Alberto Bustos. But Kikuchi struck out pinch-hitter Damian Garcia and center fielder Derik Lopez.
Japan threatened in the bottom of the sixth, when Shingo Tomita reached on a questionable two-base error with two outs. Tomita’s line drive to left was dropped by Ernesto Rios, who appeared to be transferring the ball to his throwing hand when it fell out. But Yuma Watanabe grounded out to third to end the threat.
This Kitasuna Little League won the World Series in 2001 and 2012, and the international championship in 2007. It is seeking Japan’s 10th world title, and the third in four years.