Midwest champs still alive with win

A closer look at the Des Moines, Iowa’s, 9-5 win over Coventry, Rhode Island, on Saturday at Lamade Stadium.

PLAY OF THE GAME: After Rhode Island scored five times in the third and took a 5-4 lead, Alex Stewart’s two-out, two-run single in the fourth put Iowa back in front and to stay. Stewart drove in four runs in his last three at-bats and added an RBI single in the sixth.

IOWA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Maddox O’Connor — The talented shortstop edges out winning pitcher Blake Larson (2 for 4) and Stewart (2 for 4, 4 RBIs). O’Connor went 3 for 3 and reached base in all four at-bats. Just as important, O’Connor sparked every Iowa rally. Three times he did so with a leadoff hit, and his two-out walk paved the way for the game’s decisive rally as Iowa scored four times in the fourth inning and took an 8-5 lead.

RHODE ISLAND PLAYER OF THE GAME: Tommy Turner — The versatile center fielder continued his strong summer, going 1 for 3 with two RBIs and playing solid defense. Turner’s two-run, third-inning single helped keep a go-ahead rally going and only a terrific defensive play prevented him for delivering another hit.

BIG INNING: Rhode Island had just scored five two-out runs and erased a 4-0 lead. Iowa never flinched and answered with its own two-out, go-ahead rally. The Midwest champions scored four times with two outs, taking an 8-5 lead they never relinquished. O’Connor sparked the rally, drawing a walk with nobody on base. Larson followed with a single, Connor Duong was hit by a pitch and Alex Stewart belted a go-ahead, two-run single. Two more runs scored on a wild pitch and an error as Iowa took control.

BEST EFFORT: Yes, Iowa responded, rallied and won the game. Still, Rhode Island deserves credit for erasing a 4-0 deficit and taking a 5-4 lead when Iowa seemingly had complete control of this game early. The New England champions scored five two-out runs and put five consecutive batters on base with two outs. Turner highlighted the rally with a two-run single.

FLASHING LEATHER: Rhode Island second baseman Sammy Fuentes made an awesome first-inning play, robbing Duong of an RBI single. Fuentes hustled to his left, dove and stopped the hard-hit grounder headed toward right field. He rolled head over heels but still bounced up and threw out Duong. In the bottom of the first, Duong exacted his revenge. Going to his right, the Iowa second baseman made a diving stop which robbed Fuentes of a single as he flipped to shortstop O’Connor for a force out. O’Connor then wheeled and completed a momentum-stifling double play. Iowa right fielder Donovan Childers made an outstanding play in the fifth inning, lunging and catching a Turner sinking liner a split-second before it fell in for a single. O’Connor showed off his defensive prowess in the sixth, reaching high into the hole and snaring a Kody Fretts liner headed toward the left-center field gap.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “It was just trying to keep everyone together and letting them know that we had three innings to rebound from this (Rhode Island go-ahead rally),” Iowa manager Matt Kunert said. “It definitely wasn’t over and keep the heads up and let them all know they’re an important part of this journey.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “I was just thinking my team was back there trying their best and I have to give it my all, too,” Larson said. “It feels good but we have more to go. It’s not about me, it’s about the team.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Iowa keeps its world championship dreams alive and is guaranteed a top 6 finish in the U.S. The Midwest champions advanced to Monday’s elimination game and will play the loser of today’s Michigan-Hawaii game. Rhode Island was eliminated at the Series, but can still end its historic postseason on a high when it faces Australia in a consolation game Monday morning.

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