SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — California came into the Little League World Series looking like a contender on the American side of the bracket.
But in the third inning Thursday night, the team to beat found itself down 3-1 to Ohio after some pitching struggles and small ball from Ohio.
Then California’s bats woke up. Brody Brooks and Louis Lappe hit back-to-back home runs, a two-run shot to center followed by a solo homer to right field to take the lead at 4-3, which was enough to hold off Ohio when the game was called at the end of the fourth inning after a 2 1/2-hour rain delay.
With the opening victory over the Great Lakes representative, the team from El Segundo won its fourth straight dating back to a West regional tournament that included Hawaii, the state that produced the winners of last year’s title, and had represented the West every year the tournament was played since 2018. COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the LLWS in 2020.
California has some time off until its next game Monday, awaiting the winner of Friday’s matchup of North Dakota-Texas.
The club from New Albany, Ohio, got on the board in the first inning through a walked-in run. In the second inning, Ohio manufactured a couple of runs with help from a walk, an error and a couple of infield RBIs.
TAIWAN’S PERFECT GAME
Three pitchers combined to give Taiwan the first perfect game at the tournament since 2017.
Pitchers Fan Chen-Jun, Chiu Tse-Wei and Cai Yuan-Hao totaled 14 strikeouts in 18 at-bats to prevent Canada from reaching first base, giving the Asia-Pacific representative a 6-0 victory.
Chen-Jun had nine of the 14 strikeouts. Taiwan’s ace was clocked by ESPN to be throwing over 80 mph for his fastball and in the low 70s for his slider.
“That’s probably the first time I’ve seen guys hitting 80 mph, especially at 12 years old,” Canadians manager Cole Warken said. “It’s pretty phenomenal to see.”
The perfect game was the eighth in Little League World Series history.
Spencer Ripchik is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.
Spencer Ripchik, The Associated Press