ABERDEEN - One hit, two runs. That was all the Upper Montgomery County team from Boyds, Md., needed on Saturday afternoon to become the first Maryland squad ever to capture a U.S. Championship at the Cal Ripken World Series.
Squaring off with the Middle Atlantic representative from Bronx, N.Y., at Cal Sr.'s Yard in the U.S. final, the Maryland state champs, down 1-0 after 3-1/2 innings, rallied for the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the fourth, then shut down the opposing team's offense over the next two innings to seal a 2-1 victory.
With the win, Upper Montgomery County will move on to Sunday's World Championship game, where it will square off with returning champ, Japan, in a 2 p.m. contest at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
This is an unprecedented run for the Maryland squad, as no previous Maryland state championship team had moved beyond the semifinals in the tournament's 10-year history in Aberdeen.
Upper Montgomery starter Jake Heskett tossed a gem for the winning side, striking out four, walking one, and holding Bronx to one earned run on two hits in a complete-game effort.
With his side clinging to a one-run lead after its rally in the fourth, Heskett allowed one walk before retiring the side in the fifth. The top of the sixth saw Heskett get the first Bronx hitter on a ground out, then end the game with back-to-back strikeouts.
Down, 1-0, in the home half of the fourth, Upper Montgomery opened up the inning with a walk from Coleman Carmack. Brooks Bengston followed by taking a pitch off his body to put two men on base, and courtesy runner Josh Netterville took third on a wild pitch.
Upper Montgomery batters Heskett and John Paul Walsh were then plunked in order by Bronx pitcher Samir Portorreal, brining Netterville home for the tying run. Up next was Brady Pearre, who laid down a bunt single that turned out to be his team's lone hit, and which allowed Bengston to scamper home for what would be the game-winning run.
Bronx had taken the lead in the top of the third when, with two men down, Javier Rosario launched a one-strike fastball from Heskett over the left field wall for a solo homer.
The game's only other hit came from Bronx's Evan Montilla, who slashed a single to right field right after Rosario's home run.
Upper Montgomery earned its place in Saturday's title game by topping the Southeast team from Jupiter, Fla., 8-3 on Friday. The Bronx squad punched its ticket to the U.S. final by topping the Mililani, Hawaii, team, 9-8, in a wild, rain-delayed, extra-inning contest that finally finished late Friday night.