Accusations of cheating are flying around social media after a little league team from Texas defeated the Sweetwater Valley team from San Diego, 9-7, to advance to the U.S. championship game.
ABC10 San Diego reported that Ben Gottfried, the hurler from Pearland West, Texas, could be seen touching the back of his cap or his hair with his right hand before every pitch, possibly to retrieve grease or a similar substance.
The Sweetwater Valley team spokesperson said the team does not want to be any part of the accusations made against Gottfried or Texas.
The teams had gone into extra innings before Sweetwater Valley took a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth inning, but Gottfried homered to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Then, after a walk, Caleb Low slugged a two-run walk-off homer to end the game.
Pearland West, the Southwest Region champion, will play against the Red Land Little League of Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, in the U.S. Championship Game.
Red Land, the Mid-Atlantic Region champion, already beat Pearland West, 3-0, last Wednesday. The U.S. Championship Game is expected to draw about 40,000 people, nearing the record of 44,800 set in 2001, according to the Boston Herald. Pearland manager Andrew Solomon said, “Obviously it’s not easy to play before 35,000 people when 34,900 are rooting for Pennsylvania.”
The winner of that game will play the winner of Saturday’s International Championship Game between teams from Mexico and Japan for the World Championship.
Pearland West had already defeated Sweetwater Valley, 8-4, last Sunday–Sweetwater’s first loss after 17 consecutive victories–but Sweetwater then won their next two games to force a rematch.
Lewisberry has what seems like a home-field advantage, since the World Series is played in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Sweetwater Valley was the third area team in seven years to qualify for the Little League World Series. The 1961 team from the El Cajon-La Mesa Northern Little League won the title, as well as the 2009 team from Park View Little League in Chula Vista.