Pitchers from California, Michigan create a classic
Somewhere Aaron Alvey and Walker Kelly must have been smiling.
Eleven years ago the Kentucky and Texas aces produced one of the best pitching duels in Little League World Series history with Kelly throwing six perfect innings and Alvey throwing nine no-hit innings in a game Kentucky eventually won, 2-1 in 11 innings.
Friday at Lamade Stadium, Grant Holman and Chad Lorkowski did their best to reproduce that classic. A decade from now those who watched the brilliance might still be talking about their showdown the way they do the Alvey-Kelly one.
They were that good.
Holman threw a seven-inning no-hitter and Lorkowski threw six one-hit, shutout innings before reaching the 85-pitch count limit as West Region champ Chula Vista, Calif., downed Great Lakes titlist Grosse Pointe, Mich., 3-0.
“We haven’t faced a pitcher like that all the way through and the same for them because Chad matched him,” Michigan manager Tom Mazzola said. “We were trying to win the pitch-count battle and they won by 10 pitches.”
That was probably the game’s difference. Lorkowski, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander, reached his limit when he recorded his 12th strikeout to end the sixth inning. Holman, a 6-4 right-hander, was only at 77 pitches through six innings and retired the side in the seventh, finishing at only 86 pitches despite striking out 14.
Both pitchers were brilliant and one had the feeling that they would have matched zeroes all night.
“Both teams were battling the pitch count,” California manager Rick Tibbett said. “It worked out real well. He (Holman) was going out there (for the seventh). He was dealing.”
So was Lorkowski, who surrendered a lead-off single to Micah Pietila-Wiggs to start the game but did not allow a hit after that. Lorkowski attacked a potent lineup with low 70-mph fastballs and with different arm slots, including a submarine delivery.
Lorkowski also recorded a huge strikeout after California moved a runner to third with two outs in the fourth inning.
“He throws the ball pretty hard and on top of that he kept changing arm slots and on top of that he had good off-speed pitches,” Holman said. “He was really tough.”
“Chad, for his size and weight, does remarkable things with his body being only 12,” Mazzola said. “He did a great job and kept them off balance.”
Holman also throws in the low to mid-70s and used an arsenal of heat and nasty off-speed pitches to stymie a Michigan team that scored 10 runs in the Great Lakes championship. He also received a big lift from his defense, especially in the seventh inning when third baseman Ricky Tibbett and catcher Patrick Archer made great plays to preserve the no-hitter.
He did all this despite taking a nasty liner off his left shin in the second inning. Holman struck out the next batter and cruised from there.
“It was his game,” Tibbett said.
Holman earned the win. Together, he and Lorkowski left a significant mark on Series history.