On their way to advancing within a win of the Little League World Series, the Lufkin All-Stars had an answer for every obstacle standing in their way. On Wednesday night, they couldn’t find an answer for Greenville, N.C.’s Matthew Matthijs as he struck out the final 11 Lufkin batters that came to the plate.
Then in the seventh inning, he got the backup he needed as Greenville pushed a run across on a Lufkin error to capture a 2-1 win in the U.S. semifinal in Williamsport, Penn.
With the win, Greenville moves into the U.S. championship game on Saturday afternoon. Lufkin will get a second crack at a spot in the title game when it has a rematch with Fairfield, Conn. , which took a 12-2 win over the Mid-Atlantic All-Stars on Wednesday morning.
That game will take place on Thursday night at 6:30 and will be televised by ESPN. Lufkin took a 6-3 win over Fairfield on Sunday morning.
On Wednesday night, an expected pitcher’s duel lived up to the billing with Lufkin’s Hunter Ditsworth matching the duo of Chase Anderson and Matthijs pitch for pitch for most of the night.
Ditsworth went five innings, allowing one earned run on six hits with eight strikeouts and a walk before reaching the Little League limit of 85 pitches.
Anderson worked the first 2 2/3 innings, giving up a single hit, the only one that North Carolina has allowed in three games at the World Series.
Matthijs entered the game in the third inning and was nearly untouchable. He didn’t allow a single hit in 4 1/3 innings, striking out 12 batters, including the last 11 that came to the plate. Lufkin’s only base runner against him came in the fifth inning when Charlie Deaton reached on a strikeout after the ball got past the catcher.
North Carolina got the early lead in the first inning when Carson Hardee ripped a homer that made it 1-0.
Lufkin was finally able to get to North Carolina starter Anderson in the third inning.
After the first six batters were retired, Mark Requena led off the third inning by roping a double to left. Lufkin’s first and only run came around to score on an RBI fielder’s choice by Chandler Spencer that scored pinch runner Zach Phipps and tied the game at 1-1.
The teams exchanged zeroes from there with North Carolina putting together several scoring chances, stranding seven runners in the first six innings.
North Carolina finally got the run it was seeking in the seventh inning. Cash Daniels-Moye led off the frame by reaching on an error then moved to second on a wild pitch.
Matthijs delivered a single up the middle that looked like it would end the game, but the runner was held up at third.
After an intentional walk to Hardee, Thomas Barnett hit a grounder to first, and when Lufkin attempted to get the out at the plate, the bll got by the catcher, allowing the winning run to score.
Chip Buchanan took the loss for Lufkin, allowing a single unearned run in one-plus inning of work.
Despite the loss, Lufkin is still two wins away from a U.S. championship. A win over Connecticut on Thursday would put the local all-stars in a rematch with North Carolina for the U.S. championship. That game would be a single-elimination game despite North Carolina being undefeated.