Oregon holds on for wild win vs. Illinois, advances
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Only in Little League could a team score four runs, pitch a no-hitter, and barely escape with a victory.
But that's just what the team from Beaverton, Ore., did in a wild 4-3 win over Lemont, Ill., in the U.S. semifinals at the Little League World Series on Wednesday.
Derek Keller and Devon DeJardin combined for the no-hitter and DeJardin also knocked in the go-ahead run with a squeeze bunt in the top of the sixth for Beaverton, which advances to Saturday's U.S. title game against the winner of Thursday's Portsmouth, N.H.-Columbus, Ga., matchup.
The Mexican champions from Matamoros belted three home runs in an 11-0, mercy-rule rout of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in the earlier International semifinal. Mexico will play the winner of Thursday's game between Kawaguchi City, Japan, and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in the International championship game on Saturday.
Keller went four innings, giving up a pair of runs in the third on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. DeJardin pitched a perfect fifth before loading the bases with two outs in the sixth on a pair of walks and a hit batter. Dane Kempke scored on a wild pitch before DeJardin got Michael Hall to ground out to end the game.
"We had some control problems, but if you had told me before the game that we threw a no-hitter and won the game, I wouldn't care how many runs or walks we gave up," said Beaverton manager Jeff Keller.
"I felt good before the game and I really thought I would pitch well," Derek Keller said.
DeJardin found himself battling his nerves when he loaded the bases.
"I was really scared once they loaded the bases," he said. "I just wanted to throw strikes, but I got the sign and thought I couldn't do it, right then.
"So, I stepped off. I just had to concentrate on getting the ball over the plate."
With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the sixth, Sam Albert doubled and went to third on a wild pitch. DeJardin then laid down a perfect squeeze bunt and Albert slid by Zach Soria's tag to give Beaverton the lead.
"I didn't expect the coach to give a 5-foot-10 kid the bunt sign, so I was really nervous when I got the sign," DeJardin said. "I saw it was curveball, so I thought I could get the bunt down. It wasn't a very good bunt, but it got the job done."
DeJardin came out for special pinch-runner Austin Perry, who stole second and scored on a pair of throwing errors to give Beaverton a two-run cushion.
Albert made a dazzling play at second to preserve the no-hitter with no outs in the sixth. Running to his left, he fielded a grounder by David Hearne and made a leaping throw to first. Jace Fry leapt to make the catch just before Hearne reached the bag.
A tearful Mike Hall, the Lamont manager, said he told his players after the game that the breaks just didn't go their way.
"It was a tough one. It was really tough with the kids in the dugout. So many times you look at the Little League symbol and it's just a symbol, but after this experience, these kids have learned character, courage and loyalty," Hall said, referring to the three words on the Little League logo.
Lemont got its first run when pinch-runner Zak Kutsulis scored on a wild pitch by Keller with the bases loaded in the third. Hearne followed with a sacrifice that scored Josh Ferry.
Keller surrendered three consecutive walks that loaded the bases before his wild pitch. By the end of the inning he was trailing by two runs despite not having given up a hit.
Hearne had a strong start for Lemont, striking out the first seven batters he faced before Trevor Nix got a one-out single in the top of the third.
Beaverton tied the game 2-2 in the top of the fourth on a double by Albert -- and two costly errors. Keller reached on a fielding error by Ferry and Albert doubled. Ferry bobbled the cutoff throw, allowing Keller to score. Albert advanced to third and scored on a second error.
The Mexican champions from Matamoros used home runs from Jose Segoviano, Josue Barron and Roberto Guajardo in their big win over Venezuela in the early game.
"We had no idea it would be so easy," Mexico manager Candelario Perez said through an interpreter.
Mexico got to Venezuela pitcher Manuel Barrios early, tagging him with five runs -- three earned -- before he was pulled with no outs in the second.
"We had seen him throw before," Perez said. "We saw him as a very strong pitcher."
Segoviano hit a two-run shot in the first inning and Barron added a three-run homer in the second that made the score 7-0.
Guajardo's three-run homer well over the center-field fence made the score 11-0 in the top of the third. After that, Mexico only needed to shut out Venezuela for two more innings to claim a mercy rule victory.
Venezuela manager Domingo Carrasquel said getting behind early made it difficult for his team to recover.
"They're sad because they thought they could go a little further," Carrasquel said through an interpreter.
Mexico pitcher Omar Zamora struck out 11 in his four innings of work and added a triple and a single and scored twice.
Zamora said his arm was tired, just like it had been in the Mexican tournament. But it didn't end up hurting him either time.
"Having scored so many runs makes it easier," he said.
Segoviano hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to start the scoring. Later in the inning Manlio Cantu walked with the bases loaded to force in Barron, who reached after being hit by a pitch.
The Mexican team got a surprise call Tuesday from Tampa Bay second baseman Jorge Cantu, who reached them by cell phone. All the players agreed it gave them a lift heading into the game.