The Lufkin Little League All-Stars have taken a 14-4 win over Connecticut to advance to the US Championship of the Little League World Series.
The win sets up a rematch between Lufkin and North Carolina on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CDT. NC won a tense 2-1 game over Lufkin on Wednesday.
"I'm ready for it," said Collin Ross. "I'm ready for Saturday. There's not much else you can say."
Mark Requena took the win in his first appearance in the LLWS. Requena pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up four runs, four hits, two walks and struck out seven.
"Mark did just what just what we asked him to do and gave us a chance to win the baseball game," Manager Bud Maddux said. "It's all we asked out of him and he did a tremendous job."
Lufkin took advantage of three errors in the first and lit up the scoreboard with eight runs.
"I was very excited that we put up eight runs and I was very relaxed," Requena said.
Each of Connecticut's losses in the LLWS came at the hands of Lufkin.
"They're well-coached," said Connecticut Manager Mike Randazzo. "Bud is hilarious and I loved coaching against him. They're extremely talented. They do everything well. They take the extra base, They put pressure on the defense, put the ball in play. They hit for power and obviously they pitch."
The scoring started with a three-run homer by Collin Ross. A wild pitch on a strikeout scored two more runs. A third base error scored another run and a Malcolm Deason single rounded out the eight runs.
Blake Slaga's RBI single put Lufkin up 9-0 in the second inning.
In the third inning, Connecticut's Michael Iannazzo launched a two-out, two-run home run to make the score 9-2.
In the bottom of the third, two of the runs scored on wild pitches and Christian Mumphery drove in a third run of the inning on an RBI groundout.
In the top of the fourth, Connecticut's Sean O'Neill's RBI double brought the score to 12-3.
In the top of fifth, Connecticut's Matthew Vivona hit a one-out, one-run homer to bring the score to 12-4.
In the bottom of the fifth, Clayton Wigley hit a two-run single to make the score and give Lufkin the win with the mercy rule in effect.
The Lufkin defense committed no errors and even robbed a few hits from Connecticut. Deason made two leaping catches on line drives and Ross again kept a ball from leaving the yard in the fifth.
"We've really played good defense, without a doubt," Maddux said. "That's kept us in games. Another good defense tonight."
"I've driven myself to make plays so my team can come back and swing the bats," Deason said.
Lufkin will now face North Carolina for the US Championship on Saturday. The game is a rematch from Wednesday's 2-1 seven-inning game in which Lufkin lost their first game of the season.
In that game, Lufkin managed only one hit and ended the game with eight straight strikeouts.
Ross said that gave the team extra motivation.
'I think it helped," he said. "I think we were more anxious to get the win. More determined."
Ross will get the start for Lufkin.
"I feel pretty confident because now that [Hunter] Ditsworth's pitched, I see which hitters hit which pitches so i have a pretty good idea where to throw," Ross said.
"I know these young men and I know what they have done throughout these three games and I knew they'd be back," Maddux said. "In fact, we never want to lose a game but if you were going to lose one, it was the one last night. We just got to play another game. We got to swing the bats and play some defense and now we'll be ready Saturday. Collin will throw a great game, no question. Our defense will step up. Hopefully our bats will come alive. I don't have any reason to think they won't."
Despite getting an off-day from games Friday, Maddux said his team still isn't allowed in the swimming pool.
"We didn't get here swimming so we're not going to leave here swimming either," Maddux said with a laugh. "The only way we're going to swim is if we happen to win the whole thing and then they're going to be jumping into the pool and I'll be jumping in with them."
As the boys go to sleep Thursday night, the do so knowing they'll be playing for the US Championship.
"I've always dreamed to be playing with the top two teams in the nation and i think we'll win this next game," Deason said.
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