West Raleigh, N.C., is headed back to the United States championship after knocking off Manoa, Hawaii, 5-2, Thursday in the first of four Cal Ripken World Series semifinals on Cal Sr.'s Yard.
In the day's second game, Japan won a nail-bitter over Republic of Korea to advance to the international title game Friday.
East Brandywine, Pa., will meet West Raleigh in the U.S. Championship after beating Mobile Ala., in semifinal number three Thursday. The U.S. title game, set for 8 p.m. Friday night, will be a rematch of a pool play game from earlier in the week, won by East Brandywine, 7-4.
The International final will be a rematch baseball fans have seen before, after Mexico closed out the semifinal round with a win over Dominican Republic. Japan and Mexico will vie for the crown at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
West Raleigh got on the board early and appeared headed for the win.
But then they had to wait it out.
An one hour-plus rain delay came with Hawaii batting in the bottom of the sixth. West Raleigh reliever Dominic Fritton walked the first two batters of the inning, Kalae Harrison and Stanley McKenzie, before the lightning and then rain took over.
"To be honest with you, it was a tough feeling, it really was," West Raleigh manager Rick Pate said of the delay. "They have a great team, they had 4-5-6 up, they had guys on first and second with nobody out. Guys had been sitting around for an hour, everything was against us on that. I just had an awful feeling, I really did."
Out of the delay, West Raleigh brought Timothy Pate, the manager's son, to the mound in relief. He was up to the task.
"I just got my catcher and pitcher together and said, guys this is our plan. He's going to take the first pitch, just groove it and come back with a tough pitch for him to hit next and maybe he'll hit into a double play and he did," manager Pate said.
Hawaii's Maka Malama hit Pate's second pitch on the ground to shortstop Payton Green. Green turned and fired to Joey Ferrari for the force at second and Ferrari pivoted and threw to first baseman Garrett Moffett to complete the likely, game-saving, 6-4-3 double play.
Pate then got Austin Teixeira to ground out to second to end the game.
West Raleigh jumped out in front in the first inning. Green doubled with one out and with him stealing third, Blake McCain hit a 1-2 pitch hard on the ground and off the Manoa third baseman Kody Watanabe. Green, who had the jump, raced around third to score. Hawaii pitcher Teixeira escaped further trouble by picking McCain off first base.
Manoa was a run better in its first at bat. Kalae Harrison doubled with one out to deep center field and trotted home moments later on Stanley McKenzie's laser shot, well over the wall in right-center.
That's all, however, Manoa managed off West Raleigh starting pitcher Zack Hurand. Hurand, the winning pitcher, tossed four and two-third innings, allowing six hits and two runs. He walked a batter and struck out seven.
The key inning came in the top of the fourth when Hawaii pitcher Teixeira aided the winners by hitting two consecutive batters after recording the inning's first out by ground ball.
Teixeira hit Pate and McCain and Sam Perez followed with a double into the right-center gap, scoring Pate.
Payton Bloom then stepped in and lined another double down the left field line, plating both McCain and Perez.
West Raleigh added its final run in the fifth. Grayson Nichols doubled with one out and moved to third and scored on a pair of wild pitches.
West Raleigh out-hit Manoa, 7-6, with no player recording multiple hits.
Teixeira was losing pitcher, working five innings. He allowed all seven hits and five runs (four earned). He walked one and struck out six. Tyler Keanini pitched one inning.
Japan back, too
Japan, despite just one hit, is also headed back to the International Championship, after slipping past a tough Republic of Korea club, 2-1, on Cal Sr.'s Yard.
Japan's lone hit came in the third inning, but it couldn't have come at a better time off Korean pitcher Wooin Choi, who pitched a great game. Choi struck out nine in the loss.
Choi, though, hit Hiroto Nakayama to begin the third inning. Kanta Yamashiro replaced Nakayama as a pinch runner. Yushin Shimada put down a sacrifice bunt, 1-to-3, but Yamashiro alertly scrambled from first to third when the base was left uncovered.
Yutaro Hamaguchi then hit the RBI single past the drawn in infield, scoring Yamashiro. Choi wild pitched Hamaguchi to second and then in attempt to pick him off, Choi threw the ball into center field and Hamaguchi raced home with the second run.
"I knew it was going to be a close game, but we had a game plan," Japan manager Akihiro Nakagome said. "If we had one chance, I could put in pinch runner who can run fast and put in a pinch hitter who can hit a fastball and we understood that the pitcher from Korea is throwing very hard, so that was a great situation to have two good commands at the same time and it had a good result."
Choi retired the next eight hitters, six by strikeout, but the damage was done.
Japan pitcher Ryu Taguchi (7 K's) was equally impressive, scattering six hits in a complete game win. Korea's lone run came across in the fifth and by who else? Choi.
Choi lifted a high, fly ball that carried just over the wall in center field.
Korea put two runners on base in both the first two innings and failed to score. They also put the leadoff man on to start the third, but nothing came of it.
Looking at a potential match against Mexico, Nakagome said, "It's going to be a close game, just like today, so what we're gonna do is, we're gonna do the same thing, try to get the one chance and get scores."
East Brandywine advances
East Brandywine, Pa., played its way into the United States Championship with an 8-4 semifinal win over Mobile, Ala., on Cal Sr.'s Yard.
Early on it was Matt Turner (2-3) who provided the offense for East Brandywine. Turner doubled in two runs in the first inning and then singled in another in the third. Lonnie White scored in both cases after being hit by a pitch in the first inning and singling with two away in the third.
East Brandywine blew the game open in the fourth, scoring five times. Four runs crossed the plate on one big swing from Cole Rupp. Rupp hit the first pitch he saw from Mobile reliever, Andrew Shirah, for a grand slam.
The other run was forced in when Peter Kern drew a bases loaded walk.
The five-spot turned out to be an important part of the game for the winners. Mobile battled back with three runs in the top of the fifth, when East Brandywine pitcher Rupp, who was the game winner, ran into trouble with one gone in the inning.
Reliever Jacob Massa induced two ground balls that could have ended the inning, but both went as errors, leading to two runs scored. Andrew Shirah added an two-out RBI single, forcing Massa from the game.
Turner, hero at bat early, became the stopper late. Turner struck out the first batter he faced to end the inning and then gave a up a two-out single in the sixth, before striking out the game's final batter.
"I felt great about the swings, in the beginning of this tournament, I wasn't doing so hot with my swings, but they're finally coming back and I'm just here to play as a team. So I did it for my team and my fan base," Turner said.
Noah Lafferty was the lone Mobile player with two hits. He also scored two runs. Ethan Webber took the pitching loss for Mobile.
Mexico back to defend
Mexico returned to the title game with an 7-3 win over Dominican Republic.
It appeared Dominican Republic was likely to take a lead in the top of the third of the scoreless semi. Kevin Alcantara Araujo was hit by pitch and with no outs, Onil Perez doubled him to third off Mexican starter Jorge Ramos.
Ramos, though, got Javier Roman to line out to center field with no advancement on the bases. Alfonso Matias then lifted a pop fly to shallow center, where Mexico shortstop Hector Mora retreated to make a catch.
Mora then squared up and fired a strike to catcher German Duarte, as Alcantara Araujo headed for the plate and was any easy out to complete the double play.
The Aegis: Top stories
Fired up by the defense, Mexico turned up the offense in the bottom half of the inning, sending 10 batters the plate and scoring six runs.
Joel Ibarra, Roque Salinas and Juan Cota each had RBI singles and Vidal Sotelo capped the inning with a long home run to left field.
The Dominicans were back at it in the fourth and this time, they didn't fail against Ramos.
Leafer Yege de Jesus walked and Arialdy de los Santos followed with a double. Esmeraldo Perez drove both in with his three-run shot to left-center field, cutting the Mexico lead in half 6-3.
That prompted Mexico to bring on Salinas, the lefty who was perfect in his four innings pitched in pool play. Salinas stayed perfect, striking out two (one reached on dropped third strike) and getting the other two outs on fly balls.
Salinas also contributed more at the plate, pounding a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall to start the bottom of the sixth. Salinas finished with a team-best three hits. Sotelo added two hits.
Ramos was the winning pitcher, while Richard Roa took the loss.