NC wins a wild game
Greenville, North Carolina pitchers allowed their first Little League World Series hit Wednesday night.
But North Carolina did not suffer its first loss. And one better believe their dominant pitching was the main reason why.
Chase Anderson and Matthew Matthjis combined on a one-hitter and Thomas Barrett scored Cash Daniels-Moye in the seventh inning as North Carolina edged Lufkin, Texas, 2-1, in a thrilling winners’ bracket final at Lamade Stadium. Matthjis threw 4 1/3 innings of perfect relief, struck out 12 and fanned the last 11 batters he faced as North Carolina clinched a spot in Saturday’s U.S. Championship.
“I didn’t even realize it was just one hit until we were looking at the stats. It’s unbelievable,” North Carolina manager Brian Fields said. “I know I say it every time but you can’t write the script any better.”
Texas can earn a rematch against North Carolina in Saturday’s final if it beats Fairfield, Connecticut tonight. Texas lost for the first time all season, but received stellar pitching and showed why it remains a world title contender.
“They’ll be ready. There’s no question in my mind,” Texas manager Bud Maddux said. “That’s why they call it double elimination. There’s no quit in these guys. They’ve been through too much and they’ve come back in games before.”
North Carolina threw consecutive no-hitters in their first two Series games and that streak reached 13 innings before Mark Requena hit a lead-off third-inning double. Chandler Spencer’s RBI fielder’s choice tied the game 1-1, but Texas never delivered another hit, meaning North Carolina pitchers have now allowed just one hit in 18 innings on the world’s biggest Little League stage.
Matthjis delivered one of the most dominant pitching performances in recent Series history. The hard-throwing right-hander had former Major Leaguer Aaron Boone in awe as he mowed through a powerful lineup, pounding the strikezone and easily striking out 11 straight while keeping North Carolina’s victory hopes alive.
Matthjis throws in the mid-70 mile per hour-range and also worked in some nasty off-speed pitches. The combination was an overwhelming one as one of the field’s best hitting teams went silent.
“I had no clue (about the strikeout streak),” Matthjis said. “I’m still surprised.”
“That’s a great team and 11 of the 14 outs were strikeouts,” Field said. “That was an unbelievable performance.”
As brilliant as Matthjis was, Hunter Ditsworth and Chip Buchanan kept providing Texas shots at winning. Ditsworth threw five strong innings and Buchanan forced extras with a solid sixth inning. Buchanan did his part in the seventh inning, too, but two errors proved costly.
Daniels-Moye hit a hard grounder to third that was mishandled and then reached second on a wild pitch. Matthjis looked like he might deliver a walk-off hit to center field when he singled a batter later. Instead, Collin Ross made a quick relay throw as third-base coach Mike Vaughn held the speedy Daniels-Moye.
Vaughn might have sent him had their been one or two outs. Carson Hardee was on deck and already had hit a first-inning home run that gave North Carolina a 1-0 lead. He chose to play it safe and, after Hardee was intentionally walked, Barrett hit a slow roller to first base. Daniels-Moye broke fast off third and his speed might have been a factor in forcing a throw that sailed high and allowed him to easily score the winning run.
“I’m speechless,” Daniels-Moye said after saying he was surprised he was not sent home on the Matthjis single.
Ditsworth left North Carolina scoreless over his last 4 2/3 innings. Ditsworth capped a dominant Series pitching performance by striking out nine and coming up big under pressure any time North Carolina threatened.
Buchanan retired the last three batters in the sixth inning after issuing a lead-off walk. Ross made a super play for the final out, extending his glove high and catching a Bryce Jackson liner at the center-field wall.
“Ditsworth battled and Chip did a good job,” Maddux said. “That was a great baseball game for the spectators to see and a great game on the field. Both pitchers were great and they just came out the winners.”