CHULA VISTA, Calif. - The Eastlake Little League All-Stars from Chula Vista defeated their counterparts from the Westport Little League of Westport, Conn., 6-3, in nine innings Wednesday in the Little League World Series, advancing to Saturday's U.S. Championship Game.
Grant Holman hit a tie-breaking three-run home run in the ninth inning after Eastlake scored twice in the top of the sixth to tie the score, forcing extra innings in the game in South Williamsport, Pa.
Holman was 0-for-four before the home run, striking out in each of his first three at-bats.
Eastlake trailed 3-1 entering the sixth inning of the scheduled six-inning game. Nick Mora, whose fourth-inning home run accounted for Eastlake's first run, hit a 2-2 pitch from Harry Azadian over the center field fence.
Max Popken relieved Azadian and walked the first batter he faced, Giancarlo Cortez. Michael Gaines, a special pinch runner for Cortez, advanced to second when Popken walked Rennard Williams, went to third on Popken's wild pitch and scored on a passed ball by Mat Stone, the Westport catcher.
Eastlake, batting as the visiting team, threatened to take the lead in the top of the eighth, as Cortez led off with a double and advanced to third on Williams' ground out. However, Charly Peterson and Gaines both grounded out, stranding Cortez on third.
Westport took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth on Matt Brown's three-run home run.
Holman pitched for the first time since pitching a seven-inning no-hitter in Eastlake's World Series opener Friday. He retired the first eight batters he faced before walking Drew Rogers, the No. 9 hitter in Westport's lineup.
Holman held Westport hitless until Azadian's one-out single in the fourth. Brown homered one out later, prompting Eastlake manager Rick Tibbett to call in Cortez to pitch.
Of the 11 outs Holman recorded, 10 were by strike out.
Westport loaded the bases against Cortez on back-to-back singles by Ricky Offenberg and Charlie Roof and a walk to Rogers. Cortez struck out Christopher Drbal to end the inning.
Ricky Tibbett, Rick Tibbett's son, pitched 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief, striking out five. Williams pitched the final 2 1/3 innings, allowing one hit and was credited with the victory.
Hundreds packed the Eastlake Tavern and Bowl to cheer on their local all-stars.
"We never made it this far. We are getting so close, I am so pumped!" exclaimed Jacob Catanzaro, who watched the game unfold on multiple big-screen TVs. "I am literally crying tears of joy."
The crowd erupted in cheer with every extra inning. Fans got louder and prouder.
"I feel like I am going to have a heart attack!" said Tanya Tomlinson, a Chula Vista resident. "I am so excited. This is so awesome. These kids worked so hard!"
Students and families also filled up Eastlake Middle School, where eight of the Little League players attend school.
"I think it's just so amazing that they came from this area, and now they are representing all of western California," said Tyler Sherard.
Wednesday night's game matched the tournament's only two 2-0 U.S. teams.
Eastlake's opponent on Saturday will be determined in Thursday's game between Westport, the New England Region champion, and the all-star team from the Eastlake Little League of Sammamish, Wash., the Northwest Region champion.
The U.S. and International champions will play in the World Series Championship Game, which is scheduled for Sunday.
10News Special Coverage:
- Eastlake All-Stars road to Williamsport: http://bit.ly/1cOkPr2