SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Manager Rob Chandler decided a quick change of strategy was in order after watching the first six Sammamish, Wash., batters strike out – five of them looking.
A more aggressive approach paid off.
Sammamish scored six runs during a third-inning rally that proved to be just enough to pull out a 6-5 win over Nashville, Tenn., in a Little League World Series elimination game Tuesday night.
“I didn’t realize they were going to throw 80 percent first-pitch strikes. So we had to change our game-plan quite fast,” Chandler said. “We stopped holding the bats.”
Austin Oh drove in the final two runs to put the Northwest champions ahead 6-2.
Aguadulce, Panama, avoided elimination with far more flair, scoring four times with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to pull out an 8-7 win over Taoyuan, Taiwan. Panama’s winning run came home when Jose Gonzalez was struck by a pitch with the bases loaded.
In knocking off Taiwan, Panama (3-1) advances to face one of the two other remaining International Division teams – Tijuana, Mexico, or Tokyo, Japan – on Thursday.
Sammamish (3-1) moves on to a matchup Thursday against either Chula Vista, Calif., or Westport, Conn., in the U.S. bracket.
Oh’s single to center drove in Will Armbruester and then Jack Matheson, who scored on an errant throw by center fielder Robert Hassell.
Armbruester, Jack Carper and Dalton Chandler had RBI singles during the rally. The Washington team had six of its eight hits in the third inning – after Nashville pitcher Trae McLemore had struck out the side in each of the first two frames.
“It looked like he was going to throw a perfect game,” Sammamish assistant manager Matt Fitzgibbons said. “And then my son [Nathan] had a nine-pitch walk, and I’m thinking, ‘Maybe, we can do this.’”
Nashville manager Chris Mercado credited Sammamish for finding its offense in the third. At the same time, Mercado couldn’t help but note how two throwing errors led to a pair of runs.
“You can’t beat yourself,” Mercado said. “That’s what I told our kids, that our biggest opponent was ourselves. We let that get to us a little bit.”
In the International bracket, getting hit in the foot never felt so good to Gonzalez.
As the infielder limped toward first base, Edgardo Rosales was celebrating on his way home from third with the decisive run for Panama, which overcame a 7-4 deficit.
“The only thing I was thinking was to try to get on base one way or another,” Gonzalez said through interpreter Gilbert Monell. “And after being hit by the pitch, I felt very happy.”
Jordan Agrazal had three RBIs, including a two-run single in the sixth. Armando Lopez hit a three-run homer in the first inning for Panama.
Lee Shu-Ming had a two-run single, and Chou Shih-Che had three hits and two RBIs for Taiwan.
Earlier in the day, Brno, Czech Republic (1-2), beat Grosse Pointe, Mich. (0-3), 5-3 in a consolation game, ending both teams’ tournament.