I am back from a fun weekend in Williamsport, PA after watching my hometown team, Greenville, NC compete in the United States Championship game of the Little League World Series. Unfortunately, Greenville was not at their best in the US Championship game or the Consolation game against Mexico. Before getting into the activities and races in the Williamsport area, let’s talk about the Little League World Series. For those who have not been watching, the team from Greenville, NC overwhelmed the competition in the early rounds of the Little League World Series. They pitched a Perfect Game in the first game against the Midwest, followed that performance up with a No-Hitter against the West, then shut down the Southwest team with a 1 hit, 1 run performance which included 11 consecutive strikeouts to end the game for star pitcher Matthew Matthijs. To learn more about the Greenville team from my personal standpoint check out our last post on Wingspan Sports.
So, what went wrong in the final 2 game for Greenville?
It all began in the anticipated rematch between Greenville, NC and Lufkin, TX, representing the Southwest. As mentioned earlier, Greenville dominated the first game with a 1 hit, 1 run performance and pitcher Matthew Matthijs shut down the dangerous lineup of Lufkin. However, due to pitching limitations, Matthijs was ineligible to pitch during the rematch and the game was put into the hands of star slugger, Carson Hardee. By all means, Carson pitched well going 4.2 innings, striking out 9 and giving up 3 runs on 4 hits. Carson was dominant through the first 3.2 innings before giving up a single to Requena and then making a costly mistake to Wigley. Wigley launched the pitch over the fence for a 2-run homerun to get Southwest on the board. Carson recovered nicely, striking out 3 of the final 4 batters he faced.
Top of the 5th, now things get ugly. The Kryptonite for Greenville in the final 2 games they played in Williamsport was the wild pitch. Already allowed 2 runners to advance in the first 4 innings on wild pitches, Carson was able to make up for them by overpowering the next hitter and getting strikeouts. However, when Chase Anderson came in to relieve Carson this was no longer the case. Chase came into the game with 2 outs and a runner on second (advanced on a wild pitch) in the top of the 5th inning. Greenville then gave up another wild pitch to allow the runner to advance to 3rd. The batter, Deason, then hit a single to score the runner easily from 3rd. The final batter of the inning popped out, but not before Greenville had 2 more wild pitches and an error on the throw down to 3rd, allowing Deason to bring the score to 5-4. In the top of the 6th inning, Chase hit the first runner with a pitch and gave up the go-ahead home run to the next batter giving Lufkin the lead at 6-5. Greenville could not get on the board again in the bottom of the inning and suffered a tough loss. Without those wild pitches, Greenville would have been playing Japan in the Little League World Series Championship game. But sometimes that happens in baseball and the best thing to do is move on and play to win the next game.
Sunday morning, Greenville took on Mexico in the Consolation game. Hoping to get back to form, Greenville went to Matthew Matthijs to start the game. Matthijs looked good through the first inning, striking out the first two batters to run his streak up to 13 strikeouts in a row including the last game. Mexico pitcher, Miranda looked just as good in the bottom half of the inning. But then came the Kryptonite. Matthijs walked the first batter and struck out the second batter. He then walked the 3rd batter as well. With Juarez up to bat, Greenville had 3 wild pitches allowing both runners on base to score and allowing Juarez to reach 1st on a dropped third strike. Matthijs was then visibly in pain as he indicated shoulder soreness to his coach. The coaches took Matthijs out of the game after just 1.1 innings and replaced him with Cameron Greenway. Matthijs did make history by not allowing a single hit in the Little League World Series over 10.1 innings. This is the 3rd best run of all time (2 others pitched 12 hitless innings). Unfortunately, things were not any better for Greenway as he tossed another wild pitch allowing Juarez to advance to 2nd before recording the second out of the inning. The next batter walked, but not before Juarez scored on yet another passed ball. A triple and another run on Greenville’s 7th passed ball of the inning put Greenville in a 5-0 hole after just 2 innings.
Ashton Byars led off the inning with a first pitch home run and the Greenville fans felt it was the spark they needed to get over that last inning. However, Greenway singled and the next 3 batters went down quietly. Mexico got that run back in the 3rd inning after a walk, wild pitch allowing the runner to get into scoring position and a single to drive him in. If it wasn’t for an outstanding diving catch by centerfielder, Cash Daniels-Moye, Mexico would have easily scored at least one more run in the inning. The 4th inning was an absolute disaster for Greenville’s defense as Mexico scored 8 runs on 8 hits, 3 passed balls, a hit batter and 1 walk. Greenville was on the verge of the Mercy Rule coming up to bat facing a 14-2 hole. The offense showed up that inning putting together a string of hits to score 4 runs before Carson Hardee belted a 2-run home run to bring them within reach at 14-8. The remainder of the game was fairly quiet on both ends and 14-8 remained to be the final score.
I am upset for the players of Greenville that their incredible season had ended in such a tough way, but I am glad to have been able to experience the excitement in person at Williamsport. I watched the US Championship game with the locals on the hill, just behind the 3rd base foul pole and had the opportunity to join the parents and fans in the stadium for the Consolation game. Though frustration and disappointment was clear on the faces of the crowd, one thing that never faded was their cheers and encouragement for those young men on the field. The Greenville catcher walked off the field in tears after having 7 passed balls in the 2nd inning, the parents and fans made sure to cheer extra loud for him when he came up to bat in the bottom of the inning. The community atmosphere was great despite the team’s struggles. It was great to see Ashton Byars hitting the home run while his father was being interviewed and the reaction of the fans when Cash rolled over and raised his glove to indicate that he had made the catch. Before the game, all the parents locked hands and bowed their heads in prayer for a moment of quiet reflection before the emotional game. It was an experience that I greatly enjoyed and encourage others to make the trip whether they have a personal connection with the team as I did or just as a curious bystander.
Some things to note for the potential fan looking to visit the Little League World Series:
- There is plenty of parking around the stadium for $5 to $10
- Food inside the stadium is reasonably priced
- Ex: Large souvenir cup drink $6, Soft Pretzel $2.75, Roast Beef Sandwich $6
- Seating during some games is Open to the Public. Make sure to ask an attendant.
- If you bring a chair that is not built for the hill, then it is difficult to see the field
- For good seating plan to arrive early, locals reserve spots as early as 6am
- Bring a cardboard box for the kids so they can slide down the hill in centerfield
- Remember that the players are only 11-12 years old, so let them have fun!
Planning on going to Williamsport and want more to do than just baseball?
While much of our time in Williamsport was spent at the ball field we did get a chance to check out the area as well. A stop at the World of Little League Museum is a must for any visitor. The museum has a ton of Little League memorabilia and fun activities for the kids such as racing down the baseline and a light wall to test your fielding skills. It also has an inventory of highlights from Little League World Series games played in the past for you to enjoy. Another attraction for the kids near Williamsport is Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland or the trampoline park, Fly World. For the adults, there are several wineries in the area such as Four Friends Vineyard, Eagle Rock Winery, and Bastress Mountain Winery or you can check out the beer selection at Bullfrog Brewery.
Although there are no races that are centered around the Little League World Series, Williamsport does host several 5ks throughout the year and even has the Lumberjack Triathlon. This triathlon has a Sprint option and Olympic option available, both with open water swims in the Susquehanna River.
With the craziness surrounding the LLWS, we decided to book a hotel outside of Williamsport in order to save some money. We stayed 30mins away in Mill Hall, PA and on Saturday night after the US Championship game we made our way out to State College (1hr from Williamsport). State College is the home of Penn State and has several great things to do at night such as the Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail and the Penn State Berkey Creamery for some of the best ice cream the state has to offer.