SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — An early-morning game after an emotional loss in the U.S. championship proved more than North State’s all-stars could overcome on Sunday. But nothing that happened the last two days will diminish what.his team accomplished this summer, manager Brian Fields said.
North State, which won District 4, North Carolina and Southeast Regional championships, stumbled early and fell 14-8 to Mexico in the consolation game of the Little League Baseball World Series on Sunday morning at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. Less than 16 hours before Sunday’s scheduled 10 a.m. first pitch, North State saw a 5-0 lead evaporate into a 6-5 loss to Lufkin, Texas, in a duel for the U.S. title.
“I think I left (Saturday) saying these boys are going to be ready to play (Sunday), but I tell you that game (Saturday), we so wanted to play in that championship game,” Fields said. “I think it was draining physically, emotionally, mentally, and I think that carried over to today.”
Cameron Greenway shakes hands with a Mexico player. Friendships and interaction with international players are among the many memories World Series players create. (Courtesy of Little League Baseball and Softball)
First baseman Thomas Barrett, whose LLWS ended when he was hit on the left knee by a pitch in the fourth inning, said it was difficult getting motivated to play so soon after Saturday’s loss.
“It was an early morning,” he said. “Last night was just crazy. We were all just upset about losing, then having to come out and play your hardest, especially after going down early, it just took a lot out of us.”
North State stacked its hopes of bouncing back on the strong right arm of Matthew Matthijs, who was part of the first combined perfect game in the 71-year history of the LLWS, the first consecutive no-hitters by a U.S. team and overwhelmed Texas in a 2-1 win the teams’ first meeting on Wednesday.
Before Sunday, Matthijs pitched nine innings in the LLWS, allowing no hits while striking out 19 and walking two. He breezed through the first inning against Mexico, striking out two and getting a bouncer to third but exited four batters into the second inning.
“I hated to see Matthew come out when he did,” Fields said. “He said his arm was bothering him a little bit.”
A questionable strike zone — both during Matthijs’ first at-bat in the first inning and when he returned to the mound in the second — seem to shake him a bit. Mexico only picked up one hit in the second but scored five runs, taking advantage of three walks, four wild pitches and two passed balls. One of the wild pitches came on a third strike with one out.
Matthijs left with North State trailing 2-0. After a grounder to third, two wild pitches, a walk and triple by Issac Miranda, Mexico led 5-0.
With Carson Hardee and Chase Anderson unavailable due to pitch limits, Fields reached deep into his roster to use Cameron Greenway, Barrett, Ashton Byars, Cash Daniels-Moye and Drew Fields. None had pitched during the LLWS, and only Greenway and Barrett worked in multiple games in the district and state tournaments.
“The problem is, Thomas and Cameron, they just haven’t pitched in a game for over two and a half weeks,” Brian Fields said. “They’ve been throwing bullpens, but it’s not the same.
“I thought Matthew was going to carry us into at least the fifth or sixth inning and get us late in the game. I feel like if he had stayed out there, we probably would have been in a little better position to win that game.”
Bryce Jackson reacts to his two-run single in a six-run fourth inning. He advanced to second on the throw to the plate then scored on Luke Lambert’s single. (Courtesy of Little League Baseball and Softball)
Mexico built a 14-2 lead with a run in the third and eight in the fourth before Daniels-Moye and Drew Fields each pitched one scoreless inning. Brian Fields said giving several of his players an opportunity to pitch in a LLWS game was important.
“I’m so glad they all got a chance,” he said. “These guys have been begging me at the bit to get out there. I know they’ve wanted to, and I’ve wanted to put them in there. The way this format worked, it’s really worked good for our pitching and just having Chase and Matthew and Carson.”
Mexico also used six pitchers in staving off a late comeback bid by North State. Cesar Monjaraz closed it out, allowing no hits and three walks while striking out three in 2.1 innings.
North State players will take numerous memorable highlights from its finale. Before the game, the two teams traded handshakes and hugs, then gathered for a group photo in the outfield grass behind second base.
Thomas Barrett give Cash Daniels-Moye a lift after Daniels-Moye made a diving catch in center field. (Courtesy of Little League Baseball and Softball)
Daniels-Moye made a sensational diving catch worthy of Sportscenter Top 10 to end the third inning, one that drew an amazed look from Barrett, who had come on in relief of Greenway.
“I thought he had no chance of getting there,” said Barrett, who embraced a grinning Daniels-Moye when he headed to the dugout and lifted him in the air. “He dove out for it and made the catch. That was great catch.
In Mexico’s big fourth inning, Bryce Jackson retreated to the warning track in right and made a tumbling catch with the bases loaded, denying Jorge Garcia an extra-base hit.
Byars, who got his first start of the LLWS, cracked a solo homer on the first pitch of the second inning for North State’s first run.
“It was pretty cool because I promised my mom that I would hit it at some point in the tournament, my mom and dad,” Byars said.
Hardee slammed his third home run of the LLWS, a two-run shot in the fourth, and
Greenway picked up one more hit to finish the series 7-for-10.
Drew Fields talks with a player from Mexico in front of the bust of Howard J. Lamade.
The memories do not end yet. A recognition celebration will be held for the team at Elm Street Park on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
“These boys deserve it,” Fields said. “They have grinded it out for the last five, six weeks. I feel like we’ve represented Greenville, the community, the state, the Southeast in a pretty good way.”
Fields also extended thanks to the support the team had received throughout its LLWS journey.
“We have had individuals, we’ve had businesses, really the whole community get behind us, financially, those traveling up here to see ballgames, the texts, the social media,” he said. “It’s been great to see. … It’s just been amazing. I don’t think these guys, I don’t think I realize what’s going to happen when we get back to Greenville. These guys deserve the recognition. I think they’re going to be in for a good treat.”