On Wednesday night, it took an extra inning to send the Lufkin All-Stars to their first loss. Less than 24 hours later, it took Lufkin a single inning to show it had no plans of going home short of the U.S. championship game.
Collin Ross highlighted an eight-run first inning with a three-run rope over the center field wall, Mark Requena picked up a strong start on the mound and Lufkin coasted to a 14-4 win over the Fairfield, Conn. (New England) All-Stars in Williamsport, Penn., on Thursday night.
With the win, Lufkin advances to the U.S. championship game where it will have a rematch against Greenville, N.C. That game will be played on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised by ABC.
From the opening pitch, Lufkin showed the fire that has made them one of the best Little League teams in the nation throughout a memorable summer.
Needing a pitcher to step up in the absence of Hunter Ditsworth and Collin Ross, who were both ineligible due to pitch count rules, Requena was the perfect answer. He got the win in by pitching the first 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits with seven strikeouts and a pair of walks before reaching the 85 pitch limit.
Malcolm Deason took over from there, getting the final out on a grounder.
After he allowed a walk in the first inning, Lufkin established itself on the offensive side after only recording one hit on Wednesday night.
Chandler Spencer ripped a leadoff single that was too hot for the shortstop to handle and Malcolm Deason reached on an error.
After a strikeout, Ross delivered a three-run shot that just cleared the center field wall, making the score 3-0.
Christian Mumphery and Chip Buchanan had back-to-back singles and eventually came around to score on the same wild pitch in which New England also made its second error of the inning, giving Lufkin a 5-0 lead.
Spencer reached base for the second straight time, this time on an error that brought Requena around to score, making it 6-0.
Deason capped the inning with a two-run single to right that made it 8-0 after one inning.
After New England finally got out of the inning, Deason started the second inning with a nice diving catch that kept the momentum on Lufkin’s side.
The “Thundering 13” continued to pour it on in the second inning.
After the first out was recorded, Buchanan and Requena hit back-to-back singles and Slaga followed with an RBI single of his own, making it 9-0.
New England finally broke through for a pair of runs on a two-run blast by Matthew Iannazzo that made it 9-2 in the third inning.
Lufkin added three more runs with the benefit of just one hit as it took advantage of some Fairfield wildness in the bottom half of the inning.
Pinch hitter Charlie Deaton started the inning with a single and Deason drew a walk. Lufkin loaded the bases when Hunter Ditsworth was hit by a pitch.
Lufkin plated its next two runs on a pair of wild pitches that made it 11-2.
Mumphery then grounded out, allowing Ditsworth to come around with a score that made it 12-2.
Down to its potential final strike before the 10-run mercy rule went into effect, Sean O’Neil hit a one-hopper to the left field fence that went for an RBI single that narrowed the margin to 12-3.
Lufkin had a chance to put the game away with a run in the bottom half of the inning as Lance Modisette singled, Slaga walked and the runners reached second and third with one out. However, they were unable to get the run home after a popup in the infield and a strikeout.
Connecticut pulled a little closer in the fifth inning when Matthew Vivona hit a solo homer, making the score 12-4.
Lufkin was finally able to deliver the knockout blow in the bottom half of the inning as it loaded the bases on a Ditsworth walk, a Ross single and an infield single by Mumphery.
Clayton Wigley then blooped a single into right field that allowed Ditsworth and Ross to score and put the 10-run mercy rule into effect.
Ross led Lufkin’s hitting with a homer, single and three RBI, Deason had a single and two RBI, Mumphery had two singles and an RBI, Buchanan hit a pair of singles,
Wigley had a single and two RBI, Slaga hit a single and an RBI and Requena, Deaton, Modisette and Spencer each hit a single.
Matthew Vivona took the loss for New England, allowing eight runs, five earned, on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.
The Lufkin win completed a two-game sweep of the New England team after it also took a 6-3 win on Monday morning. New England was eliminated with the loss.
The winner of Saturday’s U.S. championship game will advance to Sunday’s World Championship game against the Mexico/Japan winner at 2 p.m. The third-place game will be on Sunday morning at 9 a.m.