Mexico headed to international final

Mexico’s Isaac Miranda runs home as Canada’s Matteo Manzi plays catcher during the Mexico and Canada elimination game at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport on Thursday. Mexico advanced to face Japan on Saturday in the International Championship, eliminating Canada from the tournament. (CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette) Isaac Miranda, 9 of Mexico, runs home as Matteo Manzi, 10 of Canada, plays catcher during the Mexico versus Canada Little League baseball game at Lamade Stadium at the Little League World Series Complex in South Williamsport on Thursday.

First, reliever Samuel Juarez’ relief pitching kept the lead.

Then, Jorge Garcia’s and Jorge Lambarria’s bats expanded it.

It gave Reynosa, Mexico, a 6-2 win over White Rock, B.C., in an International elimination round game Thursday at the Little League World Series at Lamade Stadium. It’s Mexico’s fourth straight must-win game since dropping the tournament opener, one shy of the LLWS record for most consecutive elimination-game victories set by Waipahu, Hawaii, in 2010.

Mexico is also in the Final Four for the fourth time since the tournament changed to its current modified double-elimination in 2011 and must beat Tokyo’s Kitasuna Sunday in the International title game for its first title-game appearance since 2008.

Manager Jose Manuel Espinoza Urrea said he didn’t think anyone was stopping his team now, not after winning four in a row, and trusted his players thought the same.

“I never really thought about that as it was happening, but once we beat Italy in our first game back it gave us a lot of confidence,” said Urrea through the interpreter.

Beating Taiwan followed the Italy win, then came a winning rematch with Venezuela, and then Thursday’s game with a Canadian team looking for its first Final 4 appearance since 1998.

White Rock stranded two runners in the first and fifth innings, first when starting pitcher Andres Garza struck out Lachlan Scardina and Ty Fluet, and then in the fifth when Juarez struck out Scardina and Fluet with runners at second and third to preserve a 3-2 lead.

The first three Mexico players scored in the bottom half, first on Garcia’s solo home run just over the Little League logo in left-center field, then again on Lambarria’s two-run shot that hit the top of the wall. Garza also scored on the home run, which bounced off the top of the wall and left Canada center fielder Nathaniel Factor only able to watch.

Canada manager Ryan Hefflick declined to be interviewed. His team did answer Mexico’s early 2-0 lead with a Robert Orr home run in the third and a Fluet run in the fourth when he scored on a wild throw into center field from stealing second.

The early damage could have been worse, but pitcher Reid Hefflick chased down Isaac Miranda on a rundown between first and second to end the second inning, a play that needed replays to overturn and appeared to give the Canadians momentum.

Canada right fielder Kyle Chyzowski also saved a run in the bottom of the third when, with runners on second and third, he reached with a standing jump to catch a Lambarria line drive.

Lambarria followed that hard out with his home run that clinched the game.

“In the last inning, I was thinking that I should do something important,” said Lambarria through interpreter Daniel Beca, a player on the last Mexican team to win a LLWS title, Linda Vista of Guadalupe in 1997.

These players also have a connection to the only other Mexican champions, Industrial of Monterrey in 1957-58. They met Jose Maiz and Angel Macias, now both Little League Hall of Excellence enshrinees, as Macias owns the only perfect championship game.

“They told us don’t give up. Keep fighting in every game,” said Garza through the interpreter.

They’ve done it so far. One more win ties a LLWS record. Two more brings a championship.