SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Thousand Oaks, Calif., ended the summer-long pursuit of a world championship for Preston, Md., last night at the Little League Baseball World Series.
But not before Preston put a serious scare into the U.S. West champions.
Thomas Howe scored Ben LaNeve with a game-tying infield single in the fourth inning before the West champions scored runs in the fifth and sixth innings and pulled away for a 3-1 win in the U.S. semifinals at Lamade Stadium.
Thousand Oaks (21-0) advanced to tomorrow's U.S. championship to play Richmond, Texas, an 8-2 winner over Morganton, N.C., on Wednesday night.
Preston ended its historic season with a 14-5 record. The Maryland state champions exceeded the expectations of manager Curtis Payne and won their first Mid-Atlantic Regional championship.
"I'm very proud of the effort," Payne said. "We knew coming in this was going to be one of the most difficult games we've had. To be able to compete with a team like this we knew we had to have our best game and, to be honest, I thought we played as well as we could have played."
Ryan Hood's error paved the way for Thousand Oaks' game-winning rally. Hood misplayed Danny Leon's two-out pop fly in the top of the fifth inning, and Leon reached second when the ball rolled into shallow left field.
One batter later, winning pitcher Sean McIntyre scored Leon with a single to left. DaVonta DeShields prevented another run from scoring two batters later on Tyler Karp's single to center. DeShields relayed to Bennett, who threw out pinch runner James Brady trying to score from second.
Payne's son, Robbie, pitched a solid game against a Thousand Oaks team that outscored its 21 previous opponents, 156-23. Payne scattered nine hits over six innings and struck out three.
"He had to spot the ball and he had to keep the ball away, and for the most part he did that," Payne said. "To be able to hold a team like that to three runs, you've done a good job holding them in check."
Preston had opportunities to take the lead, leaving runners on base in every inning. Preston's last chance to take the lead came in the fifth when Hunter Bennett hit a two-out double down the left-field line. McIntyre ended the threat, getting Brady Hare to fly out to center.
"Pitching, I think I did OK even though I didn't have my best [stuff], but I did all right," McIntyre said.
One inning earlier, Preston threatened to take the lead after Howe hit his two-out infield single between first and second base. McIntyre ended the rally, striking out Wil Staton.
Preston left runners in scoring position in the second, third and fifth innings. The Mid-Atlantic champions had a Series-best seven hits through five innings but managed just one run.
John Lister provided relief pitcher Cody Thomson with an insurance run, leading off the top of the sixth with a homer.
"I don't go up there expecting to hit a home run," Lister said. "I just got a pitch that I could drive, and I went with it and drove it out."
Thousand Oaks 001 011 - 3 9 0
Preston 000 100 - 1 7 2
Robbie Payne and Brady Hare. Sean McIntyre, Cody Thomson (6) and John Lister. W-McIntyre. L-Payne. S-Thomson.