Hickory's bid for Cal Ripken World Series comes to an end

Harford County's run in the Cal Ripken World Series came to an end Friday evening when its host team, the Hickory Hornets, lost 7-5 to West Raleigh, N.C., in the United States Championship played at Cal Sr.'s Yard, the signature field of the Ripken Experience powered by Under Armour complex in Aberdeen.

West Raleigh will play Mexico for the World Championship Saturday night at 8 p.m. The game will be played at Cal Sr.'s Yard. Mexico beat Japan, 10-7, in Friday's second game.

"What an experience, to have your whole team come here and play very well, it's awesome, " Garrett McIlhenney said. "No Harford team has ever made it this far and it's just breathtaking."

Philip Winfield echoed his teammates thoughts.

"Feels really good, I mean no Harford team has ever done anything like this before and we're setting records as an Harford team and its a heck of an accomplishment," Winfield said.

West Raleigh, which repeats as U.S. Champs, used a five-run rally in the third inning that proved to be the difference in the win.

Paul Rider, a defensive substitution in the top half of the inning, had the critical blow: a three-run, home run that just got over the wall in left. The homer put West Raleigh ahead, 6-4, and they never trailed again.

"I was very surprised, at first I thought it was a double off the wall," Rider said off his big hit. "I saw it was gone and I was very happy."

Rider noted it was his first home run of the series and third of the season.

Koen Moreno and Garrett McCraw (RBI) both doubled and scored in the inning, while Penn Sealey (RBI) and Nolan McClean added singles and were aboard for Rider's long ball.

The West Raleigh rally came on the heels of Hickory's biggest inning, which was the top of the third.

Philip Winfield led off with a colossal shot to left, a high drive that cleared the playground equipment that sits beyond the left field wall.

"It felt really good because that was my first home run of this whole tournament and just to see a pitch like that come right down the center of the plate, you can't let it go by, you gotta hit it," Winfield said.

Winfield's blast gave Harford a 2-1 lead.

West Raleigh starting and winning pitcher McClean got the next two batters out, but a walk to Bobby Duffy extended the inning. Catcher Tyler Leach stepped in and hit a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left. The two-run blast, his first of the series as well, put Hickory ahead, 4-1.

"It felt great getting my first home run of the tournament and it put our team ahead," Leach said.

Trailing 6-4 after West Raleigh's big inning, Hickory scored a single run in the fifth to pull within a run, 6-5.

Colton Knoble singled, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball. Leach, meanwhile, drew a one-out walk. Leach stole second and when the catcher's throw to second sailed into center field, Knoble raced home with the run.

West Raleigh added a run in the fifth as well. Matthew Willadsen drew a leadoff walk from reliever Hunter Wright. Wright, who was relieved by Tyler Schimming, was on the mound for West Raleigh's big inning.

West Raleigh proceeded to load the bases and Rider added his fourth RBI of the game with an infield base hit.

Hickory had the potential tie runs on in the top of the sixth with one out. Garrett McIlhenney walked and Winfield was hit by pitch for the third time in the contest. The second time after hitting the long home run.

McClean was relieved by Sealey, who threw just two pitches. The second was grounded sharply to second base by Hunter Wright. West Raleigh, who was flawless defensively, turned a 4-6-3 game-ending double play.

Hickory had gotten off to another great start, but a bit of bad luck turned a great opportunity into decent result.

McIlhenney (2-for-3) doubled in his customary leadoff spot and headed for third on an 0-2 pitch to Winfield. McIlhenney had the base stolen, but Winfield was hit by the pitch, sending McIlhenney back to second.

McIlhenney tried to steal third again, three pitches later and was thrown out.

"I made a bad decision, I mean, if it was a right handed batter, I would have been completely safe, but it was bad on my part," McIlhenney said.

The inning stayed alive with a two-out walk to Knoble and Duffy cashed in the inning's extra at bat, drilling a ground-rule double to dead center field. Winfield scored on the play, but that's the only run Hickory scored.

West Raleigh evened the score at 1 in the bottom of the first. Willadsen doubled to left with one out. Sealey singled to center, but Willadsen was held at third. McClean followed with a double to deep left field. The ball hit the wall midway up, but stayed in the yard.

Jake DeFranco then hit a line drive that was headed into center field. Hickory second baseman Andrew Rickard snagged the drive, turned and doubled McClean off second.

Mexico is back

Mexico, which dominated the international division for many years, regained the International Championship of the Cal Ripken World Series with a 10-7 come-from behind win over three-time defending series champion Japan at Cal Sr.'s Yard.

Mexico used two big swings to dethrone Japan. Noel Perez hit a first inning grand slam for Mexico to get the winners started and Andres Medina, the pitching hero from the semifinal win on Thursday, hit a three-run bomb in the fifth inning that was the difference.

Trailing 4-1, Japan rallied for four runs in the top of the third. Three straight walks from Mexico starting pitcher Fernando Villicana loaded the bases for Japan and forced the Mexican starter from the mound. Reliever Luis Castellanos came on to strike out the first batter, but he walked the next one, Yusuke Kawanaka, who collected the RBI, courtesy of the bases loaded walk.

Ryusei Takeoka followed with a two-run single to left field. Shota Nozaki, a pinch runner for Kawanaka, raced to third and scored the go-ahead run on Kosuke Nishjima's RBI groundout to first.

Trailing 5-4, Mexico took advantage of a one-out error in the bottom of the fourth to regain the lead. Alex Ballesteros reached on the error and scored on Roque Salinas' RBI triple. Medina followed with an RBI single, plating Salinas.

Medina was wild pitched to second and moved to third on Villicana's single to right field. Perez added his fifth RBI with a single. Mexico led, 7-5.

Japan added a single run in the fifth to pull within one, 7-6, only to see Medina put the game on ice.

Japan also scored a run in the sixth, but winning pitcher Jerry Cuevas got two groundouts and strikeout to send Mexico on to the series championship.

Ryusei Okamoto (RBI) and Ryusei Takeoka (two RBIs) had two hits each for Japan.

Medina finished with three hits and four RBIs to lead Mexico. Perez had two hits and five RBIs.

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