For the first time in its 10-year history in Aberdeen, a Maryland team will play for the United States Championship in the Cal Ripken World Series.
Upper Montgomery County, the Maryland state champion, played its way into Saturday's title game by beating Jupiter, Fla., 8-3, Friday at Cal Sr.'s Yard. Upper Montgomery will play the team from the Bronx, N.Y., at 5 p.m. Saturday in the U.S. Championship at Cal Sr.'s Yard. The New York team beat the Pacific Southwest team of Mililani, Hawaii, 9-8 in an extra-inning game that was interrupted by rain.
In the first game of the day, Republic of Korea advanced to its first International Championship of the Cal Ripken World Series with a 7-3 win over Dominican Republic at Cal Sr.'s Yard. The 6 p.m. contest between former champs Japan and Mexico saw three Japanese hurlers combine to toss a no-hitter, helping their team to a 6-0 victory.
With the victory, Japan will move on to play the Republic of Korea in Saturday's international championship game, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
MD moves on
"We played some of the best teams in tournaments up and down the East Coast to get the kids ready for this," Upper Montgomery manager Jody Pearre said. "I don't think they understand the moment they're in yet. Being on TV tomorrow is a big accomplishment for these guys."
The winners got a complete game pitching performance from J.P. Walsh, who also got his team rolling offensively with his bat.
Walsh put Maryland ahead in the top of the second inning, belting a home run to the deepest part of the park. The blast cleared the fence in dead center, scoring Jake Heskett, who had doubled, in front of him.
Maryland added a third run in the inning, courtesy of two walks and a Ryan Haddaway RBI groundout to lead 3-0.
On the mound, Walsh was able to keep the Jupiter hitters at bay, despite throwing mainly fastballs. Tyler Ward, however, found a pitch he liked, leading off the bottom of the second, and drilled a solo home run to center to put his team on the scoreboard.
It was an RBI single by Ward in the third that cut the lead to 3-2, after Walsh had issued two walks with two outs. Zach Mazur also singled to drive in the tie run.
The fourth inning proved to be the defining inning as Maryland sent eight men to the plate, collecting five hits and scoring five runs.
Brooks Bengtson had the big blow, a high, lofting three-run home run that just got over the left field wall.
Brendan Collins added an RBI singe in the inning and Haddaway drove in his second run of the game with a triple.
Walsh took it from there, allowing two hits over the final three innings. Walsh scattered seven hits, walked two and struck out five.
"I felt like he was on cruise control," Pearre said of his pitcher.
Austin Temple started for Jupiter and worked into the second inning, before Sean Maletzke came on in relief. Temple was charged with three runs, while Maletzke lasted two and third innings, giving up five runs on six hits.
Ward relieved Maletzke and retired all eight batters he faced, striking out three.
In the last contest of Friday's semifinal round, delayed by rain, the Middle Atlantic squad from Bronx, N.Y., and the Pacific Southwest team of Mililani, Hawaii, battled into extra innings, and after all was said and done, it was the New York side that prevailed, beating the Hawaiians, 9-8.
Trailing, 8-5, heading into the bottom of the sixth, Mililani scored three times to tie the game and send it to extra innings. Both teams went silent in the seventh and eighth, but in the top of the ninth Bronx's Jason Pineda scampered home from third on a passed ball for what would be the winning run.
Mililani had one more shot in the bottom of the ninth, but Bronx reliever Jose Navarro retired the side in order to seal up his team's victory.
Navarro earned the win, tossing two perfect innings in which he struck out four of the six hitters he faced.
Pacing the winning side at the plate was Evan Montilla, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and one run scored.
Mililani's Kyson Donahue went 2-for-5 with a home run, a double, four RBIs and two runs scored.
Korea comes from behind
Korea overcame a slow start, scoring all seven runs over two innings, to get the win, their fifth in six starts. "I'm happy, the kids played very well and that's why we're going on," Korea manager Jang Won Choi.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Korea scored three times to take the lead.
Shihiro Hironaka started the inning with a bloop triple inside the right field line. The initial bounce jetted right, bouncing away from right fielder Nick Ramirez.
Hironaka then scored on the first of two Dominican errors in the inning. Gun Woo Lim's ground ball to short was mishandled and Lim, who was safe at first, advanced to third on two Pablo Sanchez balks.
Lim then scored the go-ahead run on a Hyeon Su Kim single to right. Su Kim stole second and was balked to third and later scored on the second error of the inning.
Korea came right back in the fourth to push across four more runs. Woo Lim did the bulk of the damage, ripping a three-run home run just over the left field fence.
Jun Young Ha followed with a double and came around to score the final run on Young So Yoon's RBI single.
Dominican Republic scored first, plating a run in the top of the third. Luis Almanzar led off with a infield single, stole second and third and scored on Ramirez' two-out infield single.
The other two Dominican runs came in the fifth. Pedro Reyes tripled and Almanzar followed with a two-run blast to center field. The Dominicans put two more men on base in the inning, but Su Kim came in to squelch the rally, striking out two batters.
The Dominicans missed their best chance to seize control of the game from the first pitch. Korean starting pitcher Young Ha had trouble finding the strike zone, walking the bases loaded with three consecutive walks.
Ha, however, struck out Franklin Santana and then got Ramirez to hit into a inning ending 5-2-3 double play.
Ramirez stopped running a few steps up the baseline, claiming the ball hit him in the box, but the umpires conferred and dismissed the claim.
"I started trying to throw strike balls after the bases were loaded," Young Ha said after the game. "First inning I was a little nervous."
When asked what he thought his team's chances were in Saturday's title game, Young Ha said, "I want Japan."
Japanese hurlers unhittable
In the 6 p.m. international semifinal contest between Mexico and returning world champ Japan, Japanese hurlers Takashi Nakayama, Hiroki Matsumoto and Shoto Yamazaki combined to toss a no-hitter in their team's 6-0 victory.
Nakayama, who earned the win, started the game for Japan and was nearly perfect through four innings, striking out six of the 13 hitters he faced. Kevin Acosta, the lone Mexican hitter to get on base over the first four innings, was awarded first when he was hit by one of Nakayama's pitches.
Matsumoto took over in the fifth and retired three straight hitters, two via strikeout, to keep the no-hitter alive.
Yamazaki came out to pitch the sixth and set down the first two hitters he saw with a strikeout and an infield fly. Just one out away from wrapping up the no-hitter, Yamazaki walked Mexico's Sebastian Polo, but recovered to retire Cesar Berlanga on a game-ending strikeout.
The Japanese offense was quick out of the gates, scoring three times in the first inning, then adding another three in the bottom of the third.
Koki Okada as Japan's to offensive contributor, going 1-for-2 with a two-RBI single and scoring once himself. Takumi Yamamoto was 2-for-2 with two runs and one RBI in the victory, while Kosuke Ito went 1-for-2 with a pair of runs scored. Tomoya Koike scored one run for Japan.
Check back with http://www.exploreharford.com for more Cal Ripken World Series semifinal round play throughout this afternoon and evening.