Sunday, August 28, 2011

California Wins the Little League World Series

Congratulations to the boys from Huntington Beach, California, winners of the 2011 Little League World Series. First Baseman Nick Pratto delivered a bases loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the 6th inning to score pinch runner Eric Anderson from third base giving California the 2-1 victory over Japan. It was just a terrific game between two really good teams.
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Just a lot of really great things to talk about in this one. Let's start with the starting pitching. Braydon Salzman and Shoto Totsuka were both extremely effective. Salzman, featuring a 72 mph fastball, went the distance for California allowing just 1 unearned run on 3 singles and more impressively he struck out 9 without walking a batter. Totsuka meanwhile pitched into the 5th before leaving due to pitch count restrictions (Pitchers could not face a new batter once they hit 85 pitches) and he was no slouch either. He surrendered a solo home run to California catcher Hagen Danner in the 3rd, but otherwise he was able to pitch his way out of trouble, bearing down when he had to and keeping the Japanese in the game.

Now the defense. Japanese second baseman Kenny Igeta was phenomenal the entire tournament and today was no exception as he made a number of fine plays. Starting rightfielder Kazuto Takakura made a terrific running catch down the rightfield line in the bottom of the second to rob a hit from California third baseman Dylan Palmer with a runner on. Pratto made a fine catch on just a rocket of a throw from second baseman Christian Catano to end the top of the 6th... Sure, there were a handful of errors, but it wasn't as though they were just throwing the ball over the place or booting balls right and left. It was really good baseball, and it was a lot of fun to watch.

Finally, the individual accomplishments by some of these kids can't be left out. Danner led the tournament in hits with 11, hit a pair of homers including the one in the Championship Game, and caught the whole game while calling all of the pitches. Salzman recovered from a scary line drive against Rhode Island earlier in the tournament that deflected off the brim of his hat, but he stayed in that game and then came back to throw a complete game today. Japan's Yoshiki Suzuki led the tournament with 3 home runs, and despite going 0 for 3 in the final, he contributed on defense throwing out runners at third and home while playing first base. And finally Pratto, the winning pitcher in the U.S. Title Game against Montana, who went 3 for 4 and delivered the game winning walkoff hit.

And then to have the game end with the bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the last inning... I mean, what more could you really ask for in a Championship Game? The game capped off a highly successful tournament that broke the all-time attendance record. Thanks largely in part to a local team from Keystone, Pennsylvania making a deep tournament run, over 400,000 fans attended the tournament this year.

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