Endwell claims the US banner
As Jack Hopko secured the final out, pitcher Jude Abbadessa jumped skyward.
Abbadessa and his teammates truly had reached new heights.
Michael Mancini threw 4 2/3 innings of brilliant one-hit baseball, Billy Dundon delivered a key two-run, pinch-hit single and Mid-Atlantic Region champion Endwell, New York, scored four fourth-inning runs as it defeated Southeast titlist Goodlettsville, Tennessee, 4-2, Saturday at Lamade Stadium and captured the U.S. championship.
Go ahead and cue up the Frank Sinatra. New York is the country’s best Little League Baseball team.
“I got to get the last out in the regional final, but this is the Little League World Series and the U.S. championship and it’s amazing,” Abbadessa said. “Pitching in front of that big crowd on this big stage … it’s just awesome.”
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” New York manager Scott Rush said. “We didn’t expect to be hoisting this banner. I can’t even describe how it felt when we got that last out.”
Endwell is the first New York team to win a national championship in the 2000s and will try to become its state’s first world champion today when it faces Asia-Pacific champion Seoul, South Korea, at 3 p.m. also at Lamade Stadium. A team that has become the darling of the Series since it is only a two-hour drive away and helped draw 26,538 fans. Many of them were clad in the team’s blue and red Series colors and chanted U.S.A. as the players posed for pictures with their championship banner along the first-base line.
It has been a near three-month journey, but New York finally has reached the ultimate destination.
“When we first practiced I thought we could go pretty far and we did well and got to regionals again, but this year we came out on top,” said Hopko, who hit an RBI single, bringing home the game’s first run. “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s been a long road, but we’ve made it where we wanted to.”
New York is the only team that has beaten Tennessee this season and remains undefeated, going 23-0 against American teams this summer. A team that has six players back from last year’s state champion received a taste of big-time baseball last year.
Now they have scaled the country’s Little League summit. Mancini did not allow a run and Abbadessa worked around Zach McWilliams two-out, two-run home run, clinching the win by inducing a groundout to second baseman Justin Ryan. New York scored all its runs in the fourth inning as it became the second straight Mid-Atlantic team to reach the world final and linked themselves together forever.
“They all pick each other up and them being friends has helped us a lot,” Rush said. “We’ve been together for three months and have spent the last three weeks together in the dorms, 11 players and three coaches. They are all like brothers now.”
Goodlettsville was playing in its second U.S. championship, but will have to settle for third or fourth place this time after capturing the 2012 title. The Southeast champion has one more Series game remaining and plays Panama for third place in today’s 10 a.m. consolation game at Lamade Stadium.
In typical Tennessee fashion, it rallied in the sixth inning. John Henry Knotts drew a leadoff walk and McWilliams hit his two-out home run, his fourth this Series, making it a 4-2 game. Tennessee won three straight elimination games in three days after its first loss to New York and kept fighting until Ryan and Hopko combined on the final out.
“This entire team is the most resilient group of kids I’ve ever been around,” Tennessee manager Joey Hale said. “Their will to win is unbelievable. To be second in the United States and go through what we went through is awesome. There’s no sad faces here. Just smiles.”
Pitching dominated the first 3 1/2 innings as Mancini and Brock Duffer dueled and stifled both offenses. Duffer retired New York on three pitches in the third inning, but after Mancini reached his 10th strikeout in the top of the fourth the offense broke out.