(AP) SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Brock Myers’ hit a tie-breaking double, and Goodlettsville, Tenn., gave up a 10-run lead in the bottom of the sixth before scoring nine in the seventh in a 24-16 victory Saturday over Petaluma for a berth in the Little League World Series title game.
Only California’s 10-run comeback to send the game into extra innings tied at 15 could overshadow Tennessee slugger Lorenzo Butler’s extraordinary day at the plate. Butler set a single-game record with nine RBIs, and tied a record with three homers to lead Tennessee.
Cole Tomei had a two-run double in the sixth, and Hance Smith’s solo shot with two outs gave California an improbable 15-15 tie.
Tennessee finally held on in the bottom of the seventh to win the U.S. championship.
Tennessee will face Tokyo on Sunday after Japan beat Aguadulce, Panama, 10-2 in the international final.
Luke Brown’s strikeout to end the game set off a wild celebration on the field, before the two teams exchanged customary postgame handshakes.
California and Tennessee played a Little League classic.
The teams combined for 40 runs — another World Series record — in a game that lasted more than three hours.
But only Tennessee gets to move on to Sunday’s World Series title game against Japan.
The U.S. title game looked as though it might also be a blowout with Tennessee leading 15-5 in the sixth. That’s when Petaluma powered up at the plate.
Every run that drew California closer turned up the intensity in the Lamade Stadium stands. “Petaluma! Petaluma!” California’s fans pleaded throughout the sixth.
Smith’s homer finally completed the comeback.
And soon enough, Tennessee surged ahead again with nine runs in the seventh.
Logan Douglas scored on an error for California in the bottom of the seventh with two outs to make it 24-16, and anxious fans wondered again if Petaluma could pull off another miraculous rally.
It wasn’t to be after Brown’s game-ending strikeout.
Tennessee players converged near third base, throwing their gloves in the air before collapsing to the ground in delight.
Butler had such a big day at the plate his name at one point was a trending topic on Twitter. He hit a trio of three-run homers, including the final one the opposite way to right in the sixth to make it 15-5.
After each blast, he looked calm in the dugout, seeming as collected as a big-league hitter in a tense playoff game.
Japan relied on the bats in the early game, too, getting five homers, including two from 13-year-old slugger Kotaro Kiyomiya, for the international championship.
The 6-foot Kiyomiya is imposing at the plate, and he set the tone early with a first-inning blast that sailed deep down the right-field line.
Edisson Gonzalez had an RBI single in the first while Daniel Castro added a run-scoring double in the second for Panama. Those runs got Panama to 4-2 going into the third.
But Japan didn’t let up.
Rintaro Hirano homered to center in the third before Kiyomiya went deep again in the fourth, this time the opposite way to left-center to make it 7-2.
Starter Yuta Ishida allowed four hits and struck out six over four innings, while three relievers combined for two shutout innings to close out the game.
“Yes we can! Yes we can,” Panama’s fans chanted in Spanish through the sixth, down by eight.
The game was such a big deal for Panama that Mario Jaramillo, the country’s ambassador to the United States, watched the game.
But it was Japan celebrating at the end. Their players smiled and posed for a picture at the mound with their new prize — the international championship banner.
Coach Junji Hidaka would rather his team not rely so much on the long ball come Sunday,
“We only scored on home runs today, I would advise the players not to try for more homers” Sunday, Hidaka said. “We need to string our hits together.”
Panama committed four errors on the day, including two in the second that led to another Japan run. Still, Panama showed signs of keeping up with Japan’s powerful offense after Castro’s double made it 4-2 in the second.
Ishida shut them down from there and didn’t allow a base runner over his final 2 1-3 innings.
“It was a difficult game against a good pitching team,” manager Luis Gonzalez said. “The team had confidence after scoring in the first inning but (two errors in the second) really stopped our momentum.”
A traditional World Series powerhouse, Japan has won the international bracket five times in the past seven years. But it has won the World Series title game only once during that span, in 2010.
Live blog of Petaluma game:
Update 4:05 p.m. Understandably, Petaluma did not have another miracle in them. Final score: 24-16, Goodlettsville. But what a game! Congratulations to both teams, and good luck to Goodlettsville in their game against Japan.
Update 3:45 p.m. Ugh. Goodlettsville responds in non-demoralized fashion. They immediately put up four in the top of the seventh. You know what? This looks a lot like a Little League game. Still nobody out, and here comes Lorenzo Butler, who already has three homers. He walks. Another two runs come in on outs. They’ve been going at it for over three hours now. Tenn. won’t let up — a double drives in another. 22-15. Then – this is insane — Jason Brown drives one over the wall. And just like that, Tenn. has their huge lead back. If Petaluma ties it up in the bottom of the inning this time, Tennessee is going to secede from the Union. Get this: open mic on Petaluma’s coach, struggling to summon a Knute Rocknesque exhortation in light of recent events, and referring to his team’s last 10-run inning: “All right…I guess we do the same thing, right?”
Update 3:32 p.m. The side is now out. But in their presumptive last at-bat, the Boys of ‘Luma score 10 runs to tie the score. That deserves about two exclamation points. Down to their last three outs, they score 10 runs to tie the score!!
Update 3:32 p.m. Unbelievable: Bradley Smith hits a double; Kempton Brandis hits a homer; Hance Smith hits a homer. Tie!
Update 3:28 p.m. Infield single for Logan Douglas. 15-11. Danny Marzo flies out to center. Two out.
Update 3:26 p.m. Slow roller to second drives in another. But now there’s one out.
Update 3:22 p.m. Holy cow! Cole Tomei hits a scorcher past the left fielder for a double. Two in, score now 15-9, men on second and third and still nobody out. Tennessee’s coach has seen enough; here comes a pitching change.
Update 3:19 p.m. A bloop to center scores another. 15-7, bases loaded, no outs. Duelling chants from the crowd: “Pet-a-lu-ma!” and “De-fense!”
Update 3:16 p.m. Petaluma’s got something going: bases loaded, no outs, one run in.
Update 2:56 p.m. Goodlettsville’s Lorenzo Butler hits his third three-run home run of the day, giving him nine count ’em nine RBIs in the game. The nine ribbies are a LLWS single-game record. Butler is listed as 5′ 4″, 111 lbs.That’s a lot of RBIs per pound. Score is now 15-5.
Watching on TV now, I just noticed Petaluma has a left-handed catcher, a rarity, at least in pro ball. Here’s a 2009 article from the NY Times listing all the left-handed major league catchers since 1900. All nine of ’em.
So with the score now 15-5, let’s digress… why are there no lefty catchers? According to the Times, for no reason whatsoever…
Like Ladies Night and pitchers named Wilbur, left-handed catchers are effectively extinct — for reasons on which there is bizarrely little consensus.
“I have no idea,” said Joe Mauer, the Minnesota Twins’ All-Star catcher (right-handed, naturally).
“Is it because there are more right-handed hitters?” offered Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann.
“There’s been nobody come into a game for 20 years? Really?” said a nonplussed Joe Torre, an All-Star catcher throughout the 1960s. “Well, first off, left-handed pitchers don’t throw the ball straight.”…
Few people know why. Youth leagues see the occasional left-handed catcher — gloves for them are readily available in local sporting-goods stores — but never in pro ball. Distefano understands better than anyone which theories make sense and which do not.
None is more specious than the Right-Handed Hitter Conjecture, which holds that on steal attempts left-handers have to throw around righties, who outnumber hitters from the other side. But right-handed catchers do not seem to struggle throwing past lefties; besides, while right-handed hitters made 62 percent of major league plate appearances 50 years ago, it is now almost even, 56 percent to 44.
Update 2:47 p.m. Petaluma goes down again putting on nary a baserunner. Goodlettsville now just three outs away from taking the U.S. crown and the right to play Japan, who won the international bracket earlier today.
Update 2:40 p.m. Goodlettsville threatens but goes down scoreless. Score remains 12-5 heading into bottom of the fifth.
Update 2:27 p.m. And Petaluma has no answer as they go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fourth.
Update 2:14 p.m. Ouch. Goodlettsville sends a message: abandon all hope, ye who enter here. They match Petuluma’s comeback four runs with four of their own in the top of the next inning. The deficit is now back to seven runs.
Update 2:02 p.m. Petaluma has put up a big four runs in the bottom of the third to close the gap to 8-5.
Update 1:45 p.m.: Goodlettsville’s Lorenzo Butler hits a three-run homerun to give his team a seven-run lead over Petaluma. The Tennessee squad has scored six runs on five hits in the third inning. Petaluma pitcher Andrew White finally strikes out a batter for the first out of the inning.
Update 1:41 p.m.: Goodlettsville’s Luke Brown hits a single that allows Jayson Brown to score. Then Cole Carter hits a single that allows Brock Meyers to score. Goodlettsville leads 5-1, runners on the corners, no outs.
Update 1:34 p.m.: Petaluma’s Bradley Smith throws a wild pitch that allows Goodlettsville’s Jake Rucker to advance to second. Rucker later scores to give Goodlettsville a 3-1 lead in the top of the third. Petaluma goes to the bullpen and replaces Smith with Andrew White. The final line on Smith: two innings pitched, two strikeouts, three hits, three runs, one walk allowed.
Update 1:07 p.m.: Petaluma loads the bases with no outs, only to hit into a double play. Still, Porter Slate scores, and it’s 2-1 Goodlettsville heading into the second inning.
Update 12:55 p.m.: Brock Meyers hits a two-run homerun for Goodlettsville to give the Tennessee team a 2-0 lead over Petaluma in the top of the first inning. Meyers has pestered Petaluma in this tournament; he had a double in his team’s Aug. 19 victory over the Northern California squad.
The Boys of ‘Luma take on Goodlettsville, Tenn. today in the U.S. finals of the Little League World Series. Goodlettsville handed Petaluma its only LLWS loss earlier in the tournament, winning 9-6.
Pregame starts at 12:30 p.m. You can watch it live on television on ABC. Unfortunately, it looks like live online video is blacked out in Northern California. However, there are still ways to follow the action on the web:
- Listen to the game on KNBR live online
- Follow on gametracker
- Years of work paying off in Petaluma’s LLWS run (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)