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Curacao bests Taiwan in game of comebacks

8/26/2004

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Texas is two steps away from a world championship.

Chance Murski hit a grand slam and Randal Grichuk hit a
three-run homer to lead Richmond, Texas, to the United States final
with an 8-2 win over Morganton, N.C., on Wednesday night at the
Little League World Series.

Texas plays the winner of the Thousand Oaks, Calif., vs.
Preston, Md., game on Saturday for the championship. The world
championship is Sunday.

"I'm just about as excited as you can get. I'm just emotionally
drained," Texas manager Jim Michalek said.

Vice President Dick Cheney watched the game from a hill beyond
the outfield wall, and "Born in the USA" blared from the speakers
as Texas played in its second straight semifinal.

In the second inning, Tyler Ford doubled, and Matt Daniels and
Dustin Moehlig hit consecutive singles to load the bases for
Murski. Murski, hitting only .167 in the series, crushed one to
left field off Dykota Spiess (0-1) for a 4-0 lead.

"I hung in there and got that pitch," said Murski, who went
1-for-3. "I feel pretty good, but the rest of the at-bats I didn't
do that well."

It didn't matter.

Grichuk, back for his second consecutive Little League World
Series, added a three-run homer in the fourth to make it 7-0. It
was his fourth homer of the series and sixth in two years. Grichuk
is one shy of tying the career home run record held by two players,
including Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon in 1971.

Grichuk, a pitcher and first baseman, is the only returning
player on the Texas team.

"I just go up to the plate thinking, 'Hit the ball,' " he said.

Daniel Homann (2-0) earned his second win of the series,
allowing four hits and striking out eight. After the final out, he
bounded off the mound and celebrated with his teammates near the
first-base line.

Spiess and Eli Watson had RBI in the sixth inning for North
Carolina.

"Our hitting wasn't there," North Carolina manager Alan Lail
said. "They're 12-year-olds and sometimes they don't bring their
entire game with them."

Last year, Saugus, Mass., scored four runs in the bottom of the
seventh inning to eliminate Texas in the U.S. semifinals. This
year, Texas is looking for more.

"We're one of the top four Little League teams in the whole
world," Daniels said, smiling. "If you stop and think about it,
it's pretty amazing."

Cheney sat with his wife, Lynne, on the popular hill where
families gather and kids slide down on flattened cardboard boxes.
He stayed for three innings and signed for a steady stream of
autograph seekers.

Lynne Cheney told fans she hoped they enjoyed the visit and
reminded them to vote.

Curacao 9, Taiwan 8 (7 innings)
Jonathan Schoop had the game-tying hit in the sixth and the
winning hit in the seventh to lead Willem Willemstad, Curacao,
Netherlands Antilles into the international championship game with
the win over Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Chinese Taipei.

Curacao will play the winner of Corundu, Panama, vs. Nuevo Leon,
Mexico, game on Saturday in the championship.

Curacao rallied to tie the game with an improbable four-run
sixth, sending it into extra innings before knocking out Taiwan,
whose teams won 17 Little League World Series titles between
1969-96.

In the seventh, Rigynoel Rondei singled and advanced to second
base on a sacrifice off Taiwan reliever Hsu Chi-Hung. Willie
Rifaela hit a grounder to short that Chen Hung-Ta bobbled for an
error and Quincey van Blarcum followed with a blooper to Chen Hung
that he again misplayed.

That was ruled a hit, however, loading the bases for Schoop.

Schoop singled through the hole into left, extending his arms
straight out as he rounded first. He ran toward the mound and met
his teammates where they jumped around and danced off the field.

Schoop earned the win with an inning of scoreless relief.