California to face Chinese Taipei
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- California's mini-mashers bashed their way into the Little League World Series championship on Saturday night.
Andy Rios hit a grand slam in Chula Vista's nine-run first inning and the Cali sluggers routed San Antonio, Texas, 12-2 to advance to Sunday's final against Chinese Taipei.
"USA!, USA!" the frantic California fans chanted after their team won the U.S. bracket.
Chula Vista will try to extend the United States' four-year winning streak in the World Series title game. Chinese Taipei advanced with a 9-4 victory over Mexico.
Luke Ramirez and Bulla Graft also hit consecutive homers in the first, and Graft added a two-run drive to center in the third. California has 19 homers in five World Series games.
Rios got Chula Vista off to a fast start with a terrific play at shortstop in the top of the first, leaping to his right to stab Travis Daves' liner before starting a double play.
Ramirez also was impressive on the mound, throwing one-hit ball in a game that was shortened to 3½ innings because of the 10-run rule. After fanning Troy Montemayor for the final out, the imposing 6-foot Ramirez pumped his arms, then pointed skyward and let out a big yell.
The 13-year-old slugger has turned into a star in Pennsylvania, with fans chanting "Luuuuke!" each time he steps to the plate. They were still hooting and hollering his name 15 minutes after the game was over, with the rest of the stadium mostly empty.
"I can't explain the feeling," Ramirez said. "We've been together since we were like 7 or 8. We're all brothers out there so it's great to share this."
It will be the first appearance for a California team in the World Series final since 2004, when Thousand Oaks lost to Curacao.
Texas lost for the first time this year. It was held scoreless until the fourth, when Jacob Ramos had an RBI double and another run scored on a passed ball.
Manager Mike Shull wasn't worried about how his team would handle the loss.
"I'm sure they're over it now," he said. "I'd be willing to bet they're up in the [recreation] room now waiting for Chula Vista to beat them in pingpong."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press