Texas, Mexico advance at LLWS
Steven Cardone smiled as he jogged off the field after San Antonio, Texas escaped with another win at the Little League World Series.
He had a big reason for the look of relief on his face. Actually, three big reasons.
Cardone and San Antonio's makeshift defense erased three bases-loaded threats with double plays and John Shull had two RBIs in a 4-1 win Wednesday night over Staten Island, N.Y.
"That's pretty standard," Shull's father, Texas manager Mike Shull, joked about the timely defense.
Texas moves on to play Georgia or California in Saturday's U.S. final while New York was eliminated.
Earlier Wednesday, Mexico shut out Japan 6-0 to advance to the international final against Taiwan or Curacao.
Texas' win wasn't nearly as easy.
San Antonio had to alter its defense with regular shortstop Drew Brooks dealing with an elbow problem and Travis Daves, who pitches, catches and plays infield, sidelined for the game against New York with a recurring stomach bug.
Brooks is playing second in the World Series and regular second baseman Nicholas Smisek has moved over to shortstop, with both 12-year-olds dismissing the switch as just "weird." John Shull, typically a third baseman, moved to catcher as part of the shuffling.
All of the moving around didn't seem to affect San Antonio's defense Wednesday night.
New York loaded the bases in the first, third and fifth, but only scored one run thanks to sharply hit bouncers right at fielders that led to DPs.
Anthony Scotti, hobbling with a bad hamstring, grounded into two of them, including a 4-6-3 double play to end the fifth with New York down three.
"I knew we'd get a ground ball, I just didn't know who he would hit it to," Smisek said.
Staten Island's orange-clad fans chanted "Let's go New York" at the start of the sixth and Vincent Quinn responded with a leadoff single.
But Cardone got a fielder's choice for one out before Shull moved to the mound and struck out the last two batters to end the game. Shull also had RBI singles in the first and second.
"The big hit has come all year, and when you're used to the big hit coming, it really hurts when it never does," New York manager Michael Zacciarello said.
Mexico 6, Japan 0
Reynosa, Mexico's fans stood out in the crowd with their big sombreros, stark green shirts and their catchy chants.
"Ole, ole, ole," they sang as they swayed in unison, some rooters waving mini-Mexican flags.
They're having fun with their undefeated team at the World Series.
Raul Rojas hit a two-run homer and got five outs on the mound to finish a one-hitter, helping Reynosa to a 6-0 win over Chiba City, Japan.
Mexico has some of the most feared arms in South Williamsport, with an ERA of 0.71 entering Wednesday.
Rojas isn't too bad at the plate, either.
He got Mexico on the board with his drive in a five-run first, impressing the crowd along the way. The 12-year-old slugger slowed as he approached home, then stomped on the plate as giddy teammates patted him on the helmet.
"I was just very excited to hit a home run in front of my family at the Little League World Series," Rojas said with a serious look, a little nervous at the microphone.
It was more than enough support for Raymundo Berrones, whose curveball baffled Japan. He struck out 10 before being lifted with one out in the fifth after reaching his limit of 85 pitches.
"We've lost friendships and lost time with our family to practice for this, so we're really happy to be here," the 12-year-old Berrones said through interpreter Sergio Guzman.
Rojas finished the fifth before allowing the first two batters of the sixth to reach on an error and Naoto Ogura's infield single. He bounced back with three consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
Japan starter Toshinori Wakai gave up all six Mexico runs and five hits, but settled down and didn't allow a hit after the first. Mexico's coach said Japan adjusted and threw nothing but breaking pitches after the first.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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2009 LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES
The Little League World Series returns to Williamsport for the 63rd straight year, with 16 teams playing for the title. Follow the action on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN360.com as well as ESPN.com. Complete schedules/results