(AP) Mexico beats Connecticut 15-14 in LLWS consolation
By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa.
Brandon Montes, Ramon Mendoza, Saul Favela, and Miguel Artalejo hit home runs, and Tijuana, Mexico held off Westport, Conn., 15-14 Sunday in the consolation game of the Little League World Series.
Mexico’s World Series run ended with a 3-2 loss to Japan for the international title on Saturday. But the final barrage of power hitting sent the Tijuana team home with something to smile about.
Chad Knight two home runs and drove in seven runs, Harry Azadian had a three-run homer, and Matt Brown and Matt Stone had solo shots for Connecticut, which lost 12-1 to Chula Vista, Calif., in the U.S. title game on Saturday,
Mexico won it with four runs in the bottom of the fifth, keyed by Artalejo’s three-run homer. It was just enough because Knight hit a three-run shot with two outs in the top of the sixth.
The game ended a grueling, emotion-packed week for both teams, but they put on a real show in their final act.
Connecticut gained an early lead on Knight’s two-run homer to left-center field in the top of the first.
Mexico nearly tied it in the bottom of the inning without even getting a hit. Montes and Jorge Rodriguez walked to lead off and Rodriguez wandered too far off first after a wild pitch, getting into a rundown. Montes broke for third and seemed to elude the tag by third baseman Knight, and when Knight threw back to second trying to get Rodriguez, the ball caromed off second baseman Max Popken’s glove to right field and both runners scored.
Connecticut manager Tim Rogers challenged the ruling and Montes was ruled out at third after a video replay, and the New England champions led 2-1.
Westport tacked on three more runs in the second on Ricky Offenberg’s RBI single and a two-run single by Knight as Mexico starter Artalejo struggled with his control. He was relieved in the second by Rodriguez, who was celebrating his 13th birthday and was warmly greeted by the Mexican fans with a birthday song.
Tijuana came back with three runs in the bottom of the second to make it a one-run game. Luis Manzo, who has three hits and scored four runs, led off with a single and Luis Corral followed with a ringing double down the right-field line. Jorge Duenas scored Manzo with a sacrifice fly to center, Corral came home on a wild pitch, and Montes slammed his fifth homer of the World Series, a drive that easily carried the center-field wall.
Montes is the fifth player in Little League World Series history to hit five home runs. The record is seven, set in 1996 by Chin-Hsiung Hsieh of Taiwan.
Brown crushed a long home run to left field to lead off the third for Connecticut, hitting a 3-2 pitch that the Mexican left fielder just gazed up at as it landed halfway up the hill beyond the fence. Westport then loaded the bases, but Favela retired Knight on a hard smash that hit Favela’s left hand and dropped to the ground before he tossed the ball to first for the out.
Mexico scored four runs on five hits in the bottom of the third to take an 8-6 lead as its fans along the first-base line chanted, `Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!’ Mendoza led off with a homer, Favela drove home another run with an infield single, Corral scored on a wild pitch, and Rodriguez celebrated his big day with an RBI single to right.
Tijuana tacked on three more in the fourth to gain an 11-6 lead as Favela crushed a long home run to right-center.
Undaunted as they had been all week, the New England champions staged another stirring rally that had become their trademark in this tournament, scoring five times in the top of the fifth to tie it. Harry Azadian hit a three-run homer and Matt Stone followed with a solo shot to center.
Both teams departed Lamade Stadium with memories that surely will last a lifetime.
Torched for 10 runs in an inning by Sammamish, Wash., on Friday, Connecticut rallied with seven runs an inning later, tying it at 13 on Knight’s home run. Popken, Offenberg, Alex Reiner, and Tatin Llamas also homered in a riveting 14-13 victory, won by Knight with a single in the seventh inning.
The Connecticut players can only imagine what might have been _ they had a chance to beat eventual U.S. champion Chula Vista, Calif., on Wednesday night and failed.
Brown hit a three-run homer for Westport, and the Northeast champions seemed headed for a big victory. But California’s Nick Mora hit his second homer of the game to make it 3-2 with one out in the top of the sixth and Chula Vista tied it when Reiner threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded. Chula Vista won 6-3 on Grant Holman’s three-run homer in the ninth inning.
Mexico had its moments, too, beating its first two opponents handily with a barrage of home runs. But Tijuana couldn’t overcome the efficient Tokyo team, losing 5-2 on Wednesday and 3-2 in the heart-wrenching international championship game on Saturday.
With the score tied at 2, Montes had led off the bottom of the fifth for Mexico with a double down the left-field line and was at third with one out when Saul Favela hit a high fly to deep center. Montes took a few steps toward home, stopped, and didn’t have time to go back and tag up. He was stranded at third when Brandon Meza struck out.
When Takuma Gomi led off the top of the sixth inning with a game-winning home run, Tijuana was left to wonder what might have been.