NC, Texas advance to LL World Series

A North Carolina team is coming to the Little League World Series for the first time since 2004.

A team from Lufkin, Texas is coming for the first time ever.

Greenville, North Carolina and Lufkin, Texas earned the first two U.S. berths for this year’s Little League World Series, winning the Southeast and the Southwest regional championships Wednesday.

Greenville, North Carolina overcame an early three-run deficit and defeated Peachtree City, Georgia, 8-6, to capture the championship in Warner Robins, Georgia. Lufkin won a 2-1 thriller over San Antonio, Texas in the Southwest final, denying the Little League from McAllister Park its second straight Series appearance.

Greenville is the first North Carolina team since Morganton in 2004 to reach the Series. It went 4-0 at regionals and trailed just once at regionals. Georgia took a quick 3-0 lead in the top of the first but Bryce Jackson hit a game-tying, two-out, three-run home run an inning later. Greenville scored five two-out runs and broke a 5-5 tie in the fourth inning on a Tyler Barrett RBI single. An error allowed two more runs to score on the play.

Matthew Matthijs threw 5 2/3 strong innings of relief, striking out 10. He finished regionals with 20 strikeouts. Greenville is just the fifth team from North Carolina to reach the Series and will play the Midwest champion next Friday night at Lamade Stadium.

Lufkin won its second straight one-run thriller over San Antonio, taking a sixth-inning lead on a two-out Clayton Wigley pinch-hit home run. Wigley’s home run went to dead center field and gave Lufkin its second straight last-inning win against last year’s Southwest champion. Relief pitcher Chip Buchanan entered with the tying run on first in the bottom of the sixth, but promptly induced a double play on his first pitch and ended the game by inducing a groundout to second base.

Starter Hunter Ditsworth hit a first-inning home run to give Lufkin a 1-0 lead and threw five strong innings, not allowing an earned run and striking out eight. Ditsworth had 22 strikeouts in two regional appearances. Lufkin remained undefeated this summer and went 4-0 at regionals.

Texas plays its Series opener next Thursday night at Lamade Stadium against the Great Lakes champions.