South Dakota, Tennessee earn spots in LLWS

The U.S. side of the Little League World Series thus far looks a lot like some of the recent past.

Rapid City, S.D., and Nashville, Tenn., clinched U.S. berths Friday, capturing the Midwest and Southeast championships, respectively. South Dakota thumped Kearney, Neb., 15-4 in four innings while Tennessee rallied past Henrico, Va., 9-4.

South Dakota’s Canyon Lake Little League appeared at the Series in 2008 while the South Nashville Little League from Tennessee is headed to its second straight series after going 2-2 in South Williamsport last year.

South Dakota and Tennessee join another recent Series participant in Pearland, Texas (2010) as the three teams to clinch U.S. berths thus far. Four more berths will be determined Saturday.

South Dakota trailed 3-1 in the third inning before scoring 14 runs and delivering 13 hits in the next two innings. Dylan Richey capped a huge tournament, going 3 for 3 with a home run and five RBIs. He finished the six-game tournament with 22 RBIs as South Dakota went 6-0.

Matthew Hegre was outstanding in relief, throwing three scoreless innings after entering with two on and nobody out as Nebraska led 3-1. South Dakota topped 10 runs for a fourth time in six games and will play its first Series game next Thursday against the West champion, either Nevada or Northern California.

South Dakota will be trying to win its first Series game. The two previous qualifiers went 0-3 both times.

Tennessee overcame two weather delays and a 4-3 deficit, scoring six fifth-inning runs to beat Viriginia in the Southeast final for a second straight year. This is the third straight year a Tennessee team has reached the Series after the state had gone without a berth since 1978 before Goodlettsville reached the 2012 world final.

Sam Slaughter broke open the game with a grand slam that made it 9-4 after Tennessee scored the tying and go-ahead runs on a wild pitch and error. Slaughter had nine RBIs in his last two games and Tennessee avenged a 13-0 pool play loss to Virginia.

Tennessee scored all six runs in the fifth inning after Virignia retired the inning’s first two hitters. Two players, Robert Hassell III and Blake Money, competed on last year’s team that reached the U.S. Final 4.

Tennessee plays its first Series game next Friday against the Mid-Atlantic champion, either Pennsylvania or Delaware, Friday afternoon.