BANGOR, Maine—The Lemon Grove All-Stars waited until there were two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Brevard County, FL, in their Senior Little League World Series opener on Sunday, 4-3, on Deandre Simpson’s two-run double.
They didn’t need a dramatic comeback on Monday at Mansfield Stadium.
Simpson’s three-run double in the first inning and Ray Peterson’s two-run double in the second helped stake Lemon Grove to a 6-1 lead over Asia-Pacific champion Auckland, New Zealand. The U.S. West champs went on to post a five-inning 15-2 triumph. The game was called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Lemon Grove is now 2-0 in pool play while Auckland fell to 0-2.
Lemon Grove has a day off on Tuesday before resuming pool play against Europe-Middle East-Africa champion Emilia, Italy on Wednesday night at 5 EST.
If U.S. Southwest champs West University (New Braunfels, TX) beat Brevard County on Tuesday night, Lemon Grove would clinch a berth in the semifinals with a win over Italy.
“We swung the bats (well) today,” said Lemon Grove manager Andre Simpson.
“I love hitting here. It’s easy to see the ball. It looks real big,” said Peterson referring to the trees beyond the center field fence which provide a good hitting background. Peterson added that he and his mates got a "lot of momentum" from Sunday's triumph.
“They’re a good fastball-hitting team,” said New Zealand manager Cola Yeh.
“They’re a world class team,” added New Zealand third baseman Mitchell James. “There weren’t many fielding opportunities we messed up. They hit the ball in the holes and they hit it hard. You can’t do much about that.”
Brad Moreno wasted little time jump-starting the Lemon Grove offense by drilling the game’s first pitch into right center field for a double.
“I know I have to do my job and get on base. (New Zealand pitcher Kohei Ueha) threw me a first-pitch fastball and I took it to the right side to start the rally,” said Moreno.
Esteban Lieras walked after fouling off three 3-2 pitches and Peterson was hit by a pitch before Simpson belted his opposite-field double to the gap in right center field.
“(Ueha) threw me a fastball outside and I just went with the pitch,” said Simpson.
New Zealand got a run back in the bottom of the first on singles by Samuel Clerk, Ueha and Hamish Witters but Lemon Grove added three more in the second on a three-base throwing error, Moreno’s soft line drive RBI single to right, Lieras’ single and Peterson’s ringing double to left center.
Lemon Grove sewed up the win by scoring nine runs in the third inning as the West champs sent 14 men to the plate. Seven runs scored after two were out.
Frankie Nunez tripled over right fielder Nicholas Weaver’s head to start the rally, Derrick Clark was hit by a pitch and Cesar Preciado and Dominik Sawyer followed with RBI singles.
Ueha was replaced on the mound by Ben Thompson, who retired the next two hitters.
But Thompson walked Nico Alcoser to load the bases and uncorked a wild pitch to allow a run to score.
Three more walks forced in two more runs and James Kelly greeted reliever Nicholas Weaver with a two-run double. Preciado and Sawyer capped the rally with their second run-scoring singles of the inning.
Simpson went two innings to get credit for his second win in two days.
He allowed three hits and a run with two strikeouts and no walks.
“I tried to throw strikes and hit my spots. I can throw a lot harder than that,” said Simpson.
Moreno tossed two innings of two-hit one-run ball, striking out one and walking one, and Kelly pitched a scoreless fifth inning, walking one and not striking out anyone.
Moreno, Presciado, Kelly and Sawyer paced Lemon Grove’s 12-hit attack with two hits each. Simpson had three RBIs on his double while Preciado, Sawyer, Peterson and Kelly had two RBIs apiece.
Witters had two singles and an RBI for New Zealand. He also scored a run.