14 down, 2 to go
The Jackie Robinson West Little Leaguers from Chicago would not be denied this time.
A year after losing in the Great Lakes championship, Chicago overcame five and four-run deficits Saturday in Indianapolis to defeat New Albany, Ind., 12-7, capture the championship and earn a spot in the Little League World Series.
The Jackie Robinson West Little League is the first Little League Urban Initiative team to reach the Series since Harlem, N.Y., in 2002 and plays its first game Thursday against Northwest champion Lynnwood, Wash.
Chicago’s comeback win highlighted a day in which four more U.S. champions won regional championships and clinched Series berths. Washington defeated Oregon, 6-3 in the Northwest final, Cumberland, R.I., rallied past Connecticut, 10-6 to win the New England title and Las Vegas, Nev., pounded California, 11-2, winning the West championship. It became the first Nevada team to ever reach the Series.
Chicago is undefeated this summer and outscored six Great Lakes opponents, 62-19. Saturday, though, it faced its toughest challenge, trailing 5-0 in the third inning and 7-3 in the fifth with one out and nobody on base. Unfazed, Chicago scored seven fifth-inning runs to take the lead before adding two more in the sixth.
Cameron Bufford delivered the hit of his life thus far, hitting a two-out grand slam that put Chicago ahead to stay, 10-7. Chicago finished with 11 hits and received brilliant relief pitching from Marquis Jackson who threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out seven.
This is the second time the Jackie Robinson West Little League has reached the Series but the first time since 1983.
Chicago meets Washington in the first U.S. game Thursday and will be challenged by a team that also went undefeated at regionals and that pounded most of its opponents. Washington trailed 3-2 after the first inning but pitcher Ian Michael dominated form there, throwing a complete-game and striking out nine. Tyler Durbin went 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI as Washington scored three times in the fourth inning and went ahead to stay.
This is the second straight year a Washington team has reached the Series after a team from Sammamish finished third in the country last year.
The Cumberland American Little Leaguers from Rhode Island are back for a second time since 2011 after beating fellow perennial New England power Fairfield, Conn. Like the two previous games, this one featured a comeback as Rhode Island overcame a 3-0 first-inning deficit and a 5-3 fourth-inning deficit.
Rhode Island scored five two-out runs in the fourth inning to take an 8-5 lead it did not relinquish. The New England champions delivered 10 hits and Christopher Davock, who earned the save, went 3 for 4. Mason Matos homered and Davock ended the game with a strikeout with the bases loaded.
Rhode Island faces Southwest champion Pearland, Texas, Friday at Lamade Stadium.
Nevada overwhelmed Northern California, scoring nine first-inning runs and cruising from there to clinch its first Series berth. Nevada outscored Northern California 24-4 in two games and blitzed through the West Regional, outscoring six opponents 54-15.
Austin Kryszczuk and Bradley Stone both homered for Nevada which delivered 11 hits. Three pitchers combined on a 5-hitter. Nevada makes its Series debut Thursay night at Lamade Stadium when it plays Midwest champion Rapid City, S.D.
LLWS opening SCHEDULE
Thursday, August 14
Game 1: Asia Pacific vs. Europe-Africa, 1, Volunteer, ESPN
Game 2: Great Lakes vs. Northwest, 3, Lamade, ESPN
Game 3: Caribbean vs. Australia, 5, Volunteer, ESPN2
Game 4: Midwest vs. West, 7, Lamade, ESPN2
Friday August 15
Game 5: Mexico vs. Canada, 1, Volunteer, ESPN
Game 6: Mid-Atlantic vs. Southeast, 3, Lamade, ESPN
Game 7: Latin America vs. Japan, 5, Volunteer, ESPN2
Game 8: Southwest vs. New England, 8, Lamade, ESPN