American field features plenty of talent

From Staff Reports

They started their summers as young baseball players, mostly unknown to those outside their communities.

They are ending their summers as celebrities.

Over the next 11 days, players from 16 regions across the world will play on national television. Thousands in person and millions worldwide will watch these players display the skills that have made them among the best teams their leagues and towns have ever known.

The world will be learning all about these players as the games unfold. The following is a headstart for those coming to watch, a collection of 10 American players to watch.

Top 10 U.S. Players

to Watch

(Arranged in alphabetical order)

Jacob Dahlstrom, Washington: One of the tournament’s premier power hitters, Dahlstrom crushed a 278-foot home run in a 13-1 Northwest championship win last Saturday. That was Dahlstrom’s fourth and final home run during an impressive six-game run. The hard-hitting infielder/pitcher sent four of his five tournament hits over the fence, finishing with 11 RBIs and scoring seven runs while compiling a .429 on-base percentage. Dahlstrom also is an outstanding pitcher. He went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA at regionals, striking out 22 and allowing just four hits in 11 innings. He struck out eight and allowed no hits in four innings of a semifinal win over Idaho.

Joe Davis, Delaware: Delaware is playing at the Little League World Series for just the second time and Davis is a big reason why. He gave opposing pitchers fits at the Mid-Atlantic Regional, hitting three home runs and driving in a tournament-high 14 runs. Davis hit .389, homered in three of his first five games and scored seven times. He also had 12 RBIs in his last four games and went 2 for 4 with a home run and four RBIs in a semifinal win over Washington, D.C. Davis also is a power-throwing pitcher who averaged nearly two strikeouts per inning at regionals, fanning 13 in 7 2/3 innings.

Jacob Garza, Texas: Big, imposing and hard-throwing, Garza was untouchable at the Southwest Regional and is one of the players who has Texas looking like a team to beat. Garza overpowered New Mexico in the Southwest final, throwing 5 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball while striking out 11. He went 2-0 at regionals, not allowing a run and surrendering just one hit in 10 innings. He also struck out 18. Garza is equally dangerous offensively. He hit .538 in Waco, Texas, belting three home runs, driving in five runs and scoring eight more. Garza had a .667 on-base percentage and went 3 for 3 with a home run in that championship win over New Mexico.

Nathan Hardcastle, Delaware: His coach said Delaware was considered a long shot to even win districts, but Hardcastle is a big reason his team is now one of the world’s best. The talented pitcher was untouchable in an 8-2 Mid-Atlantic championship win over previously undefeated Pennsylvania, scattering three hits and striking out nine in 5 1/3 innings. That capped a brilliant run as Hardcastle went 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA at regionals. He allowed just seven hits in 14 innings while striking out 27. Hardcastle is an elite hitter, too, batting .556 with two home runs, nine RBIs and 11 runs.

Grant Holman, California: Another pitcher who was at his best on his biggest stage yet, Holman was dominant in the West championship. He threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout and struck out nine in a 9-0 win over previously undefeated Northern California. No team had any luck against Holman at regionals as he went 2-0, did not allow a run and surrendered just two hits in 12 2/3 innings. Just as impressive, he struck out 28, including 12 in a 4 2/3 no-hit inning performance against Hawaii. Holman also helps spark the offense and hit .524 at regiponals while scoring 10 runs and driving in five. He also slammed three doubles and hit safely in five of six games.

Chad Knight, Connecticut: No American pitcher struck out more batters during regional play than Knight who whiffed 31 in 13 innings. It was a remarkable performance as Knight averaged more than two strikeouts per inning while going 2-0 with a save and a 0.92 ERA. He has thrown 11 1/3 straight scoreless innings and allowed just one hit during that span. Knight was at his best in the New England final against Rhode Island, throwing a one-hit shutout and striking out 14 in the 1-0 win. Knight is dangerous at the plate, too, and hit .353 with a home run, five RBIs and six runs as Connecticut went 6-0.

Chad Lorkowski, Michigan: The standout first baseman/pitcher looks like a man amongst boys standing 6-foot-2, and weighing 200 pounds. Lorkowski is bigger than some Major Leaguers. More impressive than his size, though, is the way Lorkowski plays. He hit .471 with three home runs, five RBIs and six runs while helping Michigan reach the Series for the first time since 1998. Lorkowski hit safely in all six regional games as Michigan rallied to capture the Great Lakes Regional championship. He was outstanding in the final against previously unbeaten Illinois, crushing two home runs. Lorkowski is tough to hit as well. The hard-throwing pitcher went 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA and struck out 25 in 11 innings. A good defender who made no errors, Lorkowski struck out 10 in the final.

Jesus Ortiz, Texas: No American player hit more regional home runs than Ortiz, who averaged one per game. Ortiz finished with five home runs, seven RBIs and eight runs as Texas romped to the Southwest championship. The 12-year-old slugger hit .562 at regionals and had two, two home run games, including one in a semifinal win over Arkansas. Ortiz had a .611 on-base percentage and scored at least two runs in four of five regional games. He also provides some pitching depth. Ortiz went 1-0 in Waco, striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings.

Ben Pickman, Tennessee: Whether pitching or hitting, Pickman is a difference maker. He came up huge in districts as Tennessee dethroned defending U.S. champion Goodlettsville and has not stopped since. Pickman threw a brilliant complete-game six-hitter and struck out 12 in a 5-1 Southeast semifinal win over previously undefeated Florida. The left-hander finished regionals with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 21 in 10 2/3 innings. Pickman also was one of the Southeast’s best hitters, batting .667 and hitting safely in all five games. He went 5 for 5 with two home runs against Alabama and added five RBIs and six runs.

Carter Troncin, Iowa: When Iowa needed him most at the Midwest Regional, Troncin delivered. He went 4 for 7 in two one-run elimination games while driving in two runs. He also struck out both batters he faced in a big relief spot as Iowa edged previously unbeaten Minnesota, 3-2 in the final. A slick defender and strong all-around player, Troncin hit .368 at regionals, driving in six runs and scoring three more. Valuable in all facets, Troncin provides clutch pitching and appeared in five of Iowa’s six regional games. He went 1-0 and struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings and saved his best pitching for when it mattered most.