Jacob Mayers had his best knuckle curve when he needed it - in the top of the sixth inning yesterday in Glen Allen, Va.'s thrilling, 3-2 victory over Lexington, Ky., in a battle of unbeatens in the National League of the Cal Ripken World Series for 12-year-olds in Aberdeen.
Glen Allen moved atop the standings at 3-0 and clinched a berth in Friday's single-elimination competition that will include the first- and second- place finishers after the round robin in the American and National leagues and the top four teams from the International League.
Lexington slipped to 2-1 and to second place with one game remaining.
In what was one of the best-played games in the series to date, Mayers out-dueled Lexington's Shane Crain, who gave up four hits and struck out nine in five innings.
Mayers, who threw a three-hitter with two walks and 12 strikeouts and also hit a two-run homer well over the 241-foot sign in right-center field in the first inning, had a 3-2 lead in the last inning, when he gave up a leadoff single to left by Logan Jackson.
Up to the plate came cleanup batter Devon Williams, who was 7-for-7 in three tournament games, including a first-inning infield hit off Mayers.
Williams, who had also walked to load the bases in the fourth when his team scored both its runs, had a 1-2 count in the sixth with Jackson on second via a wild pitch when he swung and missed Mayers' sharp-breaking pitch for the first out.
"I was a little nervous in that last inning and I tried to jam him [Williams] inside with my fastball before I threw my knuckle curve to strike him out," said the solidly built Mayers.
"And then that last out had me a little worried when that kid stroked it to right."
After Mayers got an outstanding play and throw from his shortstop, Mike Goldberg, who grabbed Lee Kimbrell's shot up the middle and threw to third baseman Jordan Tarsovich to get the sliding Jackson at third for the second out, Tyler Howard lined Mayers' first pitch to right, but right-fielder Beau Flinchum took a couple of steps to his left to grab the ball for the final out.
"We wanted to win to give us that extra edge, but we're glad to face their best and play them tough," said Lexington coach Chuck Ross, who played in the minors with Cal Ripken. "I was impressed that he threw his off speed when he was behind in the count."
After going deep in the first inning following Tarsovich's leadoff walk off Crain, Mayers, who was the winner of the Sports Illustrated for Kids Home Run Derby on Friday, started the bottom of the third by reaching on a high hopper to third baseman Ben Johnson who had no play.
Moving to second on a wild pitch, Mayers scored on catcher Kyle Stanley's ground single up the middle to make it 3-0.
Mayers gave up his final walk in the top of the fourth and then threw away a ball hit right back to him to put runners at first and third. Williams walked to load the bases, with Mayers struggling a bit. After Kimbrell popped out, Howard bounced one over the head of Tarsovich, who was playing up, to score two runs.
Getting his second wind, Mayers struck out Paul Holland and got Johnson to ground into a force to end the threat and then had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts in the top of the fifth. In the bottom half, Crain struck out Mayers on a high fastball to set up the dramatic sixth.
"When the game started, I was prepared to go all six innings with Jacob because I knew it was going to be a battle because Lexington has a very good ballclub," said Tom Mayers, Jacob's dad and the Glen Allen manager.
"I thought Jacob threw very well, but had a little trouble hitting his spots, but I take the blame for that because I made some bad calls [on pitches]."
NOTES: Canada tied a Cal Ripken World Series record when Brooklyn Foster and Stosh Wawrzaskek combined to strike out 17 in a 5-1 win over the Dominican Republic yesterday. ... Jeremy Crivello was 3-for-4 with seven RBIs to lead Hilo, Hawaii, to an 11-2 victory over West Linn, Oregon. Crivello, whose three hits included two doubles, was one RBI short of tying a Babe Ruth World Series single-game record.
Cal Ripken World Series
Team W L
Hilo, Hawaii 2 0
Sylvan Hills, Ark. 1 1
Upper Montgomery, Md. 1 1
Keene, N.H. 1 2
West Linn, Ore. 1 2
Glen Allen, Va. 3 0
Lexington, Ky. 2 1
Egg Harbor, N.J. 1 1
Scott County, Mo. 1 2
Aberdeen 0 3
Mexico 3 0
Australia 2 1
Dominican Republic 1 2
Canada 1 2
South Korea 0 2
Hilo, Hawaii 11, West Linn, Ore. 2
Canada 5, Dominican Republic 1
Glen Allen, Va. 3, Lexington, Ky. 2
Australia 11, South Korea 5
South County, Mo. 11, Aberdeen 1
Hilo, Hawaii vs. Keene, N.H., 11 a.m.
Domnican Republic vs. South Korea, 1 p.m.
Mexico vs. Australia, 3 p.m.
Sylvan Hills, Ark. vs. Upper Montgomery, 6 p.m.
Egg Harbor, N.J. vs. Aberdeen, 8 p.m.