Wednesday’s matchup will pit them against the Latin American champs from Panama
The Eastern Regional Champion Kennett Kings never gave up the lead in their Little League Senior Division World Series game Tuesday night against Central Champion Clear Ridge Little League of Chicago, but they took their time to erase any doubt about the outcome.
The Kennett 16-year-olds scored four runs in the first inning and five in the seventh to defeat the Illinois squad, 9-4, in pool play of the Little League Senior Division World Series in Bangor, Maine. Atop their pool with a 3-0 record, the Eastern champs from Kennett will face off against Latin American Champion Chitre Little League of Panama Wednesday at 8 p.m. The Panamanian team is 2-0. The outcome of the game could determine whether Kennett will advance to the tournament semifinals on Friday.
“Everybody knows what the game against Panama means,” said Manager Todd Duerr. “We met with the team in the hotel courtyard to talk about the game plan and the significance. Panama is stellar defensively and backs it up with deep pitching. So it’s probably going to be bats against bats and see what happens. We certainly respect them, but we’re not afraid.”
Before the 5 p. m. game, Duerr reminded the team that at this point in the World Series, “everything is earned. We had to keep in mind that Chicago had two tough losses, and they wanted to go home and say they won a World Series game. We were standing in their way.”
Continuing to hit the cover off the baseball, every starter in the Eastern champions’ lineup had at least one hit. Leading the way was shortstop Eric Takoushian, who had two hits in four at-bats and was the only player to knock in more than one run with two RBI. Catcher Eric Duerr and designated hitter Dan Garver each had three hits. “I was seeing the ball really well tonight,” Garver said, “and every pitch was in my wheelhouse.”
In what has become expected for the Kings, Drew Jarmuz led off the game with a hard single through third base. Alex Pechin laid down a bunt single, followed by Eric Duerr’s hitting a single through shortstop to load the bases. Joe Zirolli knocked in the first run with a single to left field, Tucker Reese accounted for the next run on a fielder’s choice, Andrew Jones singled to score Zirolli, and Eric Takoushian plated the fourth run of the inning on a ground out to second base.
“We started off well hitting,” said Coach Mike Pechin, “but I think there was a bit of overconfidence. We thought we were going to roll over this team because they were 0-2. We had to regain our composure.”
The Kennett squad uncharacteristically committed two errors in the second inning with one out, which led to two runs for the Chicago squad. With Illinois players at second and third bases, pitcher Joe Zirolli ended the inning with two strikeouts. In the third inning, a single before and a single after Zirolli hit a batter accounted for the Chicagoan’ third run.
“We played a poor defensive inning, and when you play poor defensively, it does carry over to the offense,” said Mike Pechin. Contributing to the East team’s difficulties at the plate was a change by Illinois starting pitcher Quinn Snarskis, who switched from throwing overhand to sidearm. “Our guys weren’t being selective; they didn’t work the count, swinging at first pitches. They needed to make adjustments at the plate.”
Depending on one’s point of view, the fourth through sixth innings were either nail-biting or unexciting as only three batters reached base. Mike Pechin said the team “was well aware that the game isn’t over until the last out. We’ve pulled out games at our last at-bat against other teams, so we know it can be done.”
When Chicago removed starting pitcher Snarskis, the East squad seemed to reawaken, putting on a hitting spectacle similar to the one in the first inning. With one out, Zirolli started the final onslaught with a line drive single to left field followed by Tucker Reese’s line drive single to left field. A passed ball and an error on the Clear Ridge second baseman led to Kennett’s first run. Takoushian singled through shortstop to score courtesy runner Chris Tucker before Dan Garver, Jake Freeman and Drew Jarmuz hit back-to-back-to back singles to end the Kennett Square 16-year-olds’ scoring.
Middle reliever Ryan Barrett pitched two-and-two-thirds’ innings of middle relief before Reese entered the game to pitch the final inning. While there was little drama in the seventh, the ball found Barrett on his first play in the infield after moving from pitcher. He made a stab at a hard drive to third base and calmly turned it into a Barrett-to-Freeman-to-Jones double play for the first two outs of the final frame before Reese induced the final hitter into a ground out to second base.