United States champion West Raleigh, N.C., won its first Cal Ripken World Series Championship Saturday night, beating International champ, Mexico, 5-2, in Cal Sr.'s Yard at the Ripken Experience powered by Under Armour complex in Aberdeen.
West Raleigh's win ends a four-year drought for U.S. champions. Forest Hills, Fla., was the last U.S. champ to win the world title, in 2009.
"This is unbelievable man, just unbelievable," West Raleigh manager Bryan Holjes said. "It's surreal, it's more than we could ever dreamed of."
West Raleigh, which was a runner-up to Japan a year ago, battered Mexico pitching in the first inning for four runs and Mexico never fully recovered. Garrett McCraw, West Raleigh's starting and winning pitcher, was a good reason for it.
McCraw, who threw a complete game two days earlier, threw another complete game, allowing five hits and striking out seven.
"I pitched a complete game two days ago, but I felt great," McCraw said. "Yesterday I was a little tight, but today I felt great."
McCraw gave up a bad hop single leading off the game to Alex Ballesteros, but battery mate Lane Rhodes took care of that, throwing out Ballesteros trying to steal second base.
McCraw retired the next 10 hitters, while his teammates were building a 5-0 lead through three innings.
Rhodes was a big part of that. He belted an Jerry Cuevas pitch over the right-center field wall, scoring Matt Willadsen and Penn Sealey ahead of him for a three-run home run. It was Rhodes first in the series.
"It felt pretty good, it gave us momentum going into the next inning and we just kept rolling," Rhodes said of his key hit.
McCraw started the rally with a bit of a gift. His fly ball to left field dropped untouched as Mexico's shortstop and left fielder got confused and McCraw legged out a double. Willadsen singled him in with the first run. Willadsen added another single and was the lone West Raleigh hitter with two hits.
Nolan McClean, a strikeout victim in the first inning, hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third to give West Raleigh the 5-0 lead.
Mexico's Andres Medina snapped McCraw's streak of retired hitters with two away in the fourth inning.
Medina hit a double and Jesus Castillo followed with a long home run to right-center field to put Mexico on the scoreboard.
Fernando Villicana followed with another hard hit ball, a double, but McCraw got out of the inning on a ground ball to shortstop Willadsen, who played it flawlessly.
"We recognize that their pitcher was very good and it was a nightmare in the first inning because we had an error in the field and then we had an error in the pitching," Mexico manager Victor Paez said through translator Anwar Perez.
Cuevas took the loss, pitching to just five batters. Marcos Encinas and Brian Guerrero also pitched for Mexico.
Medina had two hits to lead Mexico offensively.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun