Jul 03, 2023

Texas gets clutch pitching and defeats California at Little League World Series

Aug 21, 2023

Needville, Texas' Jagger McRae, right, celebrates with DJ Jablonski, center right, after their win over El Segundo, Calif., in a baseball game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Monday, Aug. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

A closer look at the 3-1 Needville, Texas win over El Segundo, California, Monday at Lamade Stadium

PLAY OF THE GAME ― The final one: This game was a riveting contest and, fittingly, reached an exciting conclusion. California had the tying runners on base with two outs and Louis Lappe up. Lappe is having a big Series and hit his second Series home run in his first at-bat. Easton Ondruch, however, stayed cool under fire and induced an inning-ending groundout to second baseman Jakolby White as Texas advanced to the winner’s bracket final.

TEXAS PLAYER OF THE GAME ― DJ Jablonski: Nothing seems to rattle the reliable left-hander who again owned the stage at Lamade Stadium, under the lights. After shutting down Pennsylvania in his first start last Wednesday, Jablonski threw 5 1/3 masterful innings against a powerful offense, surrendering just one run and four hits, while striking out five. He has been brilliant in his two starts, striking out 15 in 11 innings, while allowing just two runs and seven hits. Oh yeah, Jablonski also hit a long home run, giving Texas a 3-1 fourth-inning lead.

CALIFORNIA PLAYER OF THE GAME ― Max Baker: The talented center fielder covers a lot of ground and helps anchor the infield while providing pop in the middle of California’s lineup. Baker went 2 for 2 against Texas and did his best to try and ignite game-tying or go-ahead rallies in both the first and fifth innings.

BIG INNING―Texas first: Few would have thought Texas would produce all the runs it needed in the top of the first, but that is how it played out. Dalyn Martin ignited the game’s key rally with a one-out single before Ondruch singled and Easton Benge hit an RBI single. It looked like that might be all Texas got, but Colten Georgi continued his strong Series and delivered a clutch RBI single, giving Texas a 2-0 lead.

BEST EFFORT―Jablonski and Ondruch’s pitching: Neither pitcher flinched over the last two innings despite a potent team pushing it hard. California put the tying runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth. Jablonski seems to embrace the pressure, though, and retired the next three. Ondruch then closed out the game the way Georgi did against Pennsylvania and calmly left the tying runners on first and second.

FLASHING LEATHER―California made two impressive, key plays which helped limit Texas to two runs in the top of the first. Shortstop Brody Brooks opened the game by leaping and snaring Jagger McRae’s rocket and taking a hit from him. Texas had runners on the corners, up 2-0, when third baseman Louis Lappe charged after a slow roller on the grass, bare-handed it and threw across his body to prevent Jakolby White from producing an RBI infield single. McRae took revenge in the bottom of the first and took a lead-off single from Brooks. McRae, playing third base made a back-handed stop in the hole before, gathering himself and making a rocket throw which beat the speedy Brooks. It was a huge play because Louis Lappe homered a batter later. Texas shortstop Dalyn Martin made one of the Series best catches yet when he raced toward the left-field line and somehow caught a Quinn Boehle flyball into no-man’s land. Martin extended his body as far as he could on the diving catch, holding on as he flipped head over heels.

HOME RUNS: Louis Lappe made it consecutive at-bats with home runs when he launched a towering first-inning blast well over the bushes beyond the center field wall. Lappe had homered in the final at-bat of California’s previous game against Ohio and there was no doubt this one was gone as soon as the ball came off his bat. Jablonski made his first Series hit a memorable one, turning on an 0-2 pitch and quickly drilling it well over the bushes in right-center field. Jablonski’s line drive home run was a no-doubter and gave Texas a 3-1 advantage.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY― “That’s kind of how we play,” Texas manager Andy McRae said of a fourth straight close win going back to regionals. “It’s that pitching and timely defense and hitting. We came through.”

“We’re excited. They’re a little bit down but they’re 12-year-olds,” California manager Danny Boehle said. “At end of the day we’re going to go out and battle.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY― “I just hoping O (Ondruch) trusted his pitch and executed his pitch like he has all season,” catcher Easton Benge said of the final at-bat. “I was just glad that he executed it and Jakolby made the play to end the game.”

WHAT IT MEANS― Texas is now 3-0 at the Series and will play Washington in the winner’s bracket final Wednesday night. The Southwest champions are guaranteed a top 3 finish and are a win from playing in the U.S. Final. California returns to the field Tuesday night and will face Rhode Island in an elimination game. That winner will move onto the U.S. Final 4.

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