SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- John Cornett hit the ball so high
and hard that center fielder Michael Rando thought briefly it was a
sure home run.
But Rando turned and gave chase, allowing himself enough time to
settle in front of the padded green fence. He jumped, raised his
glove and came down with the ball with two outs in the bottom of
the sixth and a runner on third base, preserving a 3-2 win Friday
for Walpole, Mass., over Hamilton, Ohio.
A new Little League World Series hero was born.
"I don't think I'll ever let go of this ball," Rando said,
gripping it with his right hand following Walpole's dramatic win in
the opening game of the tournament.
"To kick it off like this is something special," manager Brian
Hamilton could just as easily have been celebrating victory.
Even Walpole (1-0) winning pitcher Samuel Falkson said he thought
Cornett's shot was a "no-doubter."
Rando had other plans.
"I thought I had a chance to rob it," he said. "I knew it was
gone, but I thought I had a chance to rob it."
After the game, Rando let go of the baseball just long enough to
sign a few autographs for his new fan club.
Hamilton (0-1), which had been 14-0 entering the tournament,
lost its first game in stunning fashion. It led 1-0 until the top
of the sixth, when Walpole scored three runs.
Hamilton then came within 3-2 after Anthony Cline scored on wild
pitch. A runner advanced to third with two outs before Rando made
his highlight-reel grab.
"We're living in a surreal world right now. What do you do?"
Hamilton manager Tom Nichting said.
He planned to rally his devastated team for its next game,
Saturday night against Warner Robins, Ga.
"If that's the worst thing that can happen in life, you'll be
all right," Nichting said.