His father was stuck at the New York airport, but Bradley Smith showed a national television audience that there is more to him than just being the Little League Baseball World Series' tallest player.
The 6-foot-2 pitcher went 4 for 4, hit a two-run home run and threw four strong innings Thursday at Lamade Stadium as West champ Petaluma, Calif., defeated New England titlist Fairfield, Conn., 6-4, in the Series first U.S. game.
And because the game was televised, Smith still will be able to share the memorable day with his father forever, even if he was not there in person.
Connecticut’s Will Lucas ducks under the throw as California pitcher Bradley Smith fields the throw on a wild pitch in the fifth inning on Thursday at Lamade Stadium.
"Bradley did a great job today, not only offensively but defensively," said California manager Eric Smith, who is not related to Bradley. "He pitched a great game."
"You can't be nervous in these games," Bradley Smith said. "You're one of the top 16 teams in the world so I was thinking what do you have to nervous about? Just go out there and have fun."
California next plays Sunday against Tennessee while Connecticut meets Nebraska Saturday in an elimination game.
Smith broke a 1-1 tie and put California ahead to stay when he hit a two-run third-inning home run off the top of the centerfield fence and made it 3-1. He finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and also was in the middle of fifth and sixth-inning rallies that produced three runs.
In addition to sparking the offense, Smith also allowed only one earned run while striking out seven in four innings. He and Andrew White, who earned the two-inning save, struck out the final batter in all six innings.
"We tip our cap to Petaluma," Connecticut coach T.J. Paoletta said. "He (Smith) is a great pitcher and they are a great team."
Connecticut actually outhit California over the first five innings, but every time it threatened California seemed to deliver a big play or a big hit. Biagio Paoletta hit a mammoth first-inning home run to tie the game at 1-1, but right fielder Quinto Gago made one of the game's biggest plays a batter later, throwing out Will Lucas at second after Lucas had hit one over his head in right field.
The New England champions pulled within 3-2 in the fourth inning, but Smith stranded the tying run at second and California scored two runs in its next at-bat. Austin Paretti highlighted that rally with a two-run single to right field.
"After I saw that first pitch I just had to time it. I knew if he threw me another one I was going to drive it," Paretti said. "I just saw the ball in the strike zone and tried to get my hands through and drive it to right field."
Connecticut scored twice in the fifth inning and again made it a one-run game, but Danny Marzo's two-out RBI single produced a valuable sixth-inning insurance run. Patrick Steed drew a lead-off walk for Connecticut in the sixth, but Hance Smith stifled the rally when he fielded a grounder, stepped onto second and threw to first to complete an inning-ending double play.
"(Manager) Bill (Meury) told them 'keep your heads up, you played a good game, you played a great baseball team. You should be proud or yourselves,'" Paoletta said. "We're going to put this game behind us and give 100 percent on Saturday."
Connecticut received a scare in the fifth inning when starting pitcher Ryan Meury was hit in the face by a pitch. Meury was treated at Little League facilities and had a bruised upper lip in addition to some stitches on his lower lip, but Paoletta said he was doing well.
Meury will be evaluated to see if he can play Saturday.