ORONO, Maine—Lemon Grove manager Andre Simpson and his team knew what was at stake during Thursday’s final pool play game against West University of Houston, Texas.
If they had lost, even after they had won their first three games, they would not have advanced to the semifinals of the Senior Little League World Series.
Three teams would have been tied with 3-1 records and Simpson said they would have been the odd man out in the tie-breaking system.
But the U.S. West champs took care of business as righthander Brandon Weed hurled 6 ⅔ innings of impressive four-hit one-run ball in a steady rain and they bunched together six consecutive hits in a five-run six-inning outburst en route to a 9-1 triumph over the U.S. Southwest champs.
The win means Lemon Grove won Pool B and will take on the U.S. Central champs from Grand Rapids, Mich., 2-2 and the second place team in Pool A, in Friday’s 2:30 p.m. EST semifinal.
The victor will meet the winner of the game between Pool A titlist Guatemala City, Guatemala, 3-0, and Pool B runner-up South Beaches/Greater West Melbourne, Fla. 3-1, in Saturday’s 2:07 p.m.EST championship game.
West University, which won the Senior LL World Series in 2009, wound up 2-2.
Thursday’s game was moved from Mansfield Stadium in Bangor to the University of Maine’s Mahaney Diamond 12 miles up the road because Mahaney Diamond has artificial turf which enabled the teams to play in a steady rain. Mansfield Stadium has grass.
“I just tried to pound the strike zone with my fastball,” said Weed, who struck out three and walked just one. “I had to adjust to the wetness of the ball by gripping it better.”
He said he also threw his curve, change-up and “a couple of cutters.”
“I had a good fastball and I hit my spots with it,” he added.
The only run off him was unearned.
He threw 64 strikes among his 99 pitches and had to leave with two outs in the seventh because pitchers are only allowed to throw 95 pitches in an outing.
They can continue pitching to a hitter beyond 95 pitches if they hadn’t reached the 95-pitch limit when they began pitching to him.
Frankie Nunez came on to get the final out.
Simpson said he was “very impressed” with Weed’s outing and the way his team played in a pressure-packed must-win situation.
“We played as a team,” said Simpson.
The offensive catalyst was lead-off hitter Brad Moreno, who had three singles, scored two runs and knocked in another.
Moreno said his job is to get on base and if he does, he “pumps up the team.”
Moreno opened the game by grounding lefty Will Reid’s first pitch into right center field for a base hit.
“I knew he’d be trying to throw the first pitch in the (strike) zone to get ahead so I jumped on it,” said Moreno.
Moreno went to second on a groundout, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Deandre Simpson’s grounder to second.
They made it 3-0 in the third on Dominik Sawyer’s infield single, a throwing error on Moreno’s bunt single, Esteban Lieras’ run-scoring groundout and Ray Peterson’s sacrifice fly.
Lemon Grove built the lead to 8-0 in the sixth.
Alex Estrada singled to left and Nunez reached on a slow roller that went for an infield single when no one covered first.
Derrick Clark greeted reliever Luke Dworak with a bunt single and Weed delivered the first run with another bunt single.
Sawyer poked a two-run single to right; Moreno singled home another run and Simpson’s sacrifice fly capped the rally.
The Texans scored in the sixth on a hit batsman, an error and Brett Perry’s single.
Estrada walked and scored an unearned run on an error in the seventh.
Sawyer and Clark each had two hits to complement Moreno’s three-hit day.
West University coach Adam Zornes said “we told the kids to try to put the ball on the ground and force them into making mistakes. We didn’t and they did. And their pitcher threw a good game.”