In the opening game of National Division pool play at the Ripken World Series on Saturday, the Midwest Plains squad from Lamar, Colo., scored the game-winning run in the top of the sixth inning to seal an 8-7 win over the Ohio Valley representatives from Mattoon, Ill.
Playing at the Ripken Complex's Fenway Park, the Colorado team opened with a three-run barrage, but Mattoon scored twice in the bottom of the first, then tied the game at 3 in the second. Lamar came back with two runs in the third, and Mattoon scored four times in the fourth to go up 7-5. Lamar then rallied for two in the fifth and came through with the game-winner in the sixth.
Leading the way for the winning team was Lucas Salazar, who went 3-for-3 with a home run, a double and four RBIs. Tyler Geddes went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs, and teammate Colton Eberhardt was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run in the victory.
Mattoon's Garrette Branson hit a two-run home run and scored twice, and teammate Davis Johnson was 2-for-3 with a homer and two runs scored.
Eberhardt got the win, striking out three, walking three and holding Mattoon to one hit and no runs in three innings.
The tournament's first official game, featuring the Harford County champs from Forest Hill and the Middle Atlantic team from the Bronx, N.Y., started at 8:30 p.m. Friday night. The New York team won, 9-1. The Harford County squad's only run was scored by Jake Johnson, and its only hit, a single, was by Andy Dodd.
Cal Ripken Jr., who arrived at Cal Sr.'s Yard on Friday night during the opening-night's skills competition after a day spent attending to business in Milwaukee, talked about the World Series, the kids taking part, and the experiences he hoped they would take with them.
"This event has grown and grown over the years," Ripken said. "It's a wonderful celebration of the Cal Ripken League. We look at it as giving kids experiences, through the [tournament at] Myrtle Beach, through our camps, and here, and this is just the ultimate experience, because you're playing against world talent. …
"You get to meet kids from all over the world, all over the country, and they come here in search of a championship, but I don't play up the championship part of it. We want them to come here and play hard, play well, but enjoy the experience. The opportunity you have here, you're going to look back on and say, 'I got a chance to meet kids from Japan, Korea, Mexico. I got a chance to see how other kids who love baseball play the game, some of their techniques.'
"So it's a wonderful opportunity for the kids, and I think that's what we try to emphasize, because they're not going to remember who won. I think they're going to remember the things that happened during this event."