For most young players, many of their memories come from watching their favorite big leaguers in Major League ballparks. In Lufkin’s second Little League World Series game, they took center stage in front of both the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
While the crowd may have left many awestruck, the results were the same as Collin Ross was stellar on the mound, Christian Mumphery rocked two home runs and the Thundering 13 overcame a rare early deficit before taking down the Fairfield, Conn. All-Stars 6-3.
With the win, Lufkin advances to the U.S. semifinals, meaning it needs just one win to advance to the championship game. Lufkin will play on Wednesday night against North Carolina, the 16-0 Southeast/West winner, at 6:30 pm C in a game that will be televised by ESPN.
Ross, who hit two homers in the opening win, was once again the star, this time on the mound. He allowed three runs, one earned, on four hits. All of that damage came in the first two innings when Connecticut drew an early 3-1 lead.
Ross finished the game with nine strikeouts and no walks. He retired 14 of the last 15 Connecticut hitters that came to the plate with only one player reaching on an error.
Mumphery delivered the offense Ross needed with a two-run homer that tied the game in the second inning. He added a solo homer in the fifth inning.
Chandler Spencer had a triple and a single for Lufkin, Malcolm Deason hit a single and an RBI, Ross helped his own cause with a double, single and RBI and Kolby Kovar and Chip Buchanan each had a single.
The game featured plenty of fireworks starting in the first inning when Connecticut put runners at second and third with one out. However, Ross was able to escape the damage as he struck out the next two hitters.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Lufkin hitters went to work.
Spencer started the inning with a triple to left. However, he was erased at the plate on a fielder’s choice when he attempted to leap over the catcher but was tagged out.
Lufkin was still able to get on the board when Ross came through with an RBI single to center that made it 1-0.
That lead didn’t last long with Connecticut showing off some of its own firepower.
Aiden Rivera evened the game when he hit an opposite field homer over the right field wall to make it 1-1.
After a Lufkin error, Leo Randazzo gave Connecticut the lead with an RBI single to left. Ethan Righter followed with an RBI groundout that upped the margin to 3-1.
Just like their entire run, Lufkin didn’t miss a beat. Buchanan snuck a leadoff single up the middle.
Mumphery then delivered a big blow with a two-run homer to left center that evened the game at 3-3.
Ross settled down from there in retiring the Connecticut batters in order in the third and fourth innings.
Lufkin’s bats took advantage in the bottom of the fourth inning after the first two batters were retired on three pitchers.
Zach Phipps started the rally when he was hit by a pitch and Spencer followed with a hard-hit single.
Deason then roped a single right over the pitcher’s head that scored Phipps with the go-ahead run.
Spencer came around to score on a wild pitch that made it 5-3.
Lufkin got a big defensive play from Kolby Kovar on a nice catch in left field that stopped a potential rally and preserved the two-run lead in the fifth inning.
Mumphery provided an insurance run in the bottom of the inning when he blasted a solo homer over the center field fence to make the score 6-3.
Ross capped off the complete game with a perfect sixth inning, finishing just before he reached the Little League limit of 85 pitches.
The game was played in front of members of the Cardinals and Pirates, who are in Williamsport for Sunday night’s Major League game across town.
Andrew McCutchen was in the broadcast booth when Mumphery hit the first of his two homers and complimented the youngster on his swing.
Later on in the night, Lufkin will be amongst the Little Leaguers in the stands to see the Major Leaguers in action.
Thanks to another memorable day, they will have plenty to talk about.