Lufkin takes US Championship in dramatic 6-5 win over North Carolina

Courtesy of Little League Baseball and Softball
Courtesy of Little League Baseball and Softball

WILLIAMSPORT, PA (KTRE) - The Lufkin Little League All-Stars are US Champions after a comeback 6-5 win over North Carolina in the US Championship of the Little League World Series.

Down 5-0 after the third inning, Lufkin scored two in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the sixth to get the win.

Lufkin now represents the US and will play Japan Sunday for the World Championship. That game begins at 2 p.m. CDT and will be broadcast on ABC.

Following Mark Requena's two-run homer to give Lufkin the lead, Chip Buchanan retired the side in order in the sixth to capture the championship.

Requena proved to have North Carolina's number. He got the only hit in Wednesday's loss to the team and went 3-for-3 on Saturday.

North Carolina started the scoring with two runs on a single by Bryce Jackson in the bottom of the second.

In the third, JoeJoe Byrne hit a two-run single to put NC up 4-0 and Byrne moved to third on a two-base error by the left fielder. Will Casey followed that with an RBI groundout to take a 5-0 lead.

"We had talked earlier that we weren't out of the ballgame," Lufkin Manager Bud Maddux said. "We were going to win the ballgame. We've been down before and fought back and we did it again."

In the top of the fourth, Clayton Wigley hit a two-run home run to make the score 5-2.

Like always, Wigley had a simple explanation for his feat.

"I was just trying to get a basehit," he said. "It ended up going over."

"He's been great," Maddux said. "Seems like every time we needed something we put him up and he's come through. I was talking to one of the coaches and I told him, 'this guy is throwing right in Wigley's wheelhouse' and sure enough, he come through."

Collin Ross, who started the game and gave up the five runs, seemed to settle down after Wigley's shot.

"I knew from the beginning if i had run insurance I'd pitch better because I'd be more relaxed," he said. "Those first three innings, I didn't have any runs. That made me more anxious. After i got Wigley's two runs, I knew our team could come back and get some more so I slowed down and started breathing again."

In the top of the fifth, Malcolm Deason drove in Blake Slaga to make the score 5-3. Deason later scored after two wild pitches and an errant throw to third to bring the score to 5-4.

In the top of the sixth, Mark Requena got his third hit of the game, this time a two-run home run, to put Lufkin up 6-5. Requena hit the homer with two strikes against him.

"The umpire called two strikes that I don't think in my opinion were strikes," Requena said. "But i couldn't do nothing about it so i just hit the ball."

"i knew we could come back," Ross said. "I'd seen all over social media that North Carolina was going to win the championship game and I just wanted to prove everybody wrong."

Buchanan relieved Ross with two outs in the fifth and retired all four batters he faced.

"Chip has done everything we've asked him for all summer," Maddux said. "Every time we've needed him, he's come in and done a good job. I feel very confident with Chip on the mound and so are these guys."

While residents of Texas eye Hurricane Harvey's path, Maddux is glad he can give Texans something to smile about.

"It feels good," he said. "I hate I hadn't kept up with the hurricane like i should have. I heard it's pretty bad. Hopefully it takes their mind off of it. We're feeling for everyone."

Maddux said Buchanan would start Sunday and Deason would be available in relief.

The announced attendance for the game was 26,593.

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