Thirteen Little League kids from Lufkin have made history.
It hasn't been a completely smooth ride, but the 12 and under Lufkin All Stars entered Wednesday night's championship game of the Southwest Regional tournament in Waco undefeated. The game was a rematch with the McAllister All Star-Stars. On Saturday the two teams had a slug fest, with Lufkin winning 11-10 in extra innings.
As we like to say, "Beast Texas" came through one more time. Lufkin defeated Texas West 2 -1 to punch its ticket to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
As he has all tournament, Hunter Ditsworth came through both on the mound and at the plate. Ditsworth had a solo home run in the first inning and eight strikeouts on the mound.
"It has been great," Ditsworth said. "I just went out there and did what I do. I think know we have to play harder. We have to play twice as hard and go out there and do what we do."
Texas West tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Lufkin responded in the next frame thanks to a solo shot Clayton Wigley.
"It was crazy," Wigley said. "I didn't expect to hit it. I was just trying to get a base hit and score some runs."
The bottom of the sixth would see Chip Bucannan come in for relief. "The Thundering 13" would come out and get a key double play. A line drive then screamed to 2nd baseman Malcolm Deason.
"Off the bat, I knew I needed to get the ball, so I ran up to it and I fielded it," Deason said. "At that moment, I knew we had just won Waco and I was so excited."
The game was a bit of revenge for Lufkin. The last time Lufkin Little League made it this far was in 2012. That all-star team lost in the regional final to McAllister. Many believed they would see a high scoring game including Maddux.
"I believed we were going to have to score a lot of runs,but it didn't work that way," Maddux said. "Both team's pitchers dominated the hitters."
Throughout their push for Willamsport, the team has come up clutch with home runs. Through it all, the players don't seem to fight for glory, but rather lean on the next man to make the play. While much of the attention has gone to Ditsworth, he knows every other player was just as important.
"With Clayton hitting that home run, that was one of the greatest things to happen," Ditsworth said. "I just can't believe that happened."
The win makes the Lufkin All-Stars the first team ever to make it out of the "Texas East" region. The team will put a lot of their success on Manager Bud Maddux, who has been involved in the game for over 40 years. Maddux came out of retirement to be involved with the team. Maddux is quick to point out that while he coaches the team, it is the player who have to make the plays.
"I wish people could go out to the practices," Maddux said. "Caleb, you have been to some of the practices. They are intense but they are productive. They are not just out there to work in the hot air. They accept it and they work their tails off and it's paid off."
The boys from Lufkin will get rest on Thursday and will possibly have one more practice at home before flying out to Williamsport. The teams first game will be August 17 at 7 p.m. against the winner of the Great Lakes region. That team will be determined after the region's championship Game on Saturday.
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