SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Manager Rob Chandler decided a quick change of strategy was in order after watching the first six Sammamish, Wash., batters strike out — five of them looking.
A more aggressive approach paid off. Sammamish scored six runs during a third-inning rally that proved to be just enough to pull out a 6-5 win over Nashville, Tenn., in a Little League World Series elimination game Tuesday night.
"I didn't realize they were going to throw 80 percent first-pitch strikes. So we had to change our game-plan quite fast," Chandler said. "We stopped holding the bats." Austin Oh drove in the final two runs to put the Northwest champions ahead 6-2.
Aguadulce, Panama, avoided elimination with far more flair, scoring four times with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to pull out an 8-7 win over Taoyuan, Taiwan. Panama's winning run came home when Jose Gonzalez was struck by a pitch with the bases loaded.
In knocking off Taiwan, Panama (3-1) advances to face one of the two other remaining International Division teams — Tijuana, Mexico, or Tokyo — on Thursday. Sammamish (3-1) moves on to a matchup Thursday against either Chula Vista, Calif., or Westport, Conn., in the U.S. bracket.
Oh's single to center drove in Will Armbruester and then Jack Matheson, who scored on an errant throw by center fielder Robert Hassell. Armbruester, Jack Carper and Dalton Chandler each had RBI singles during the rally. The Washington team had six of its eight hits in the third inning, and after Nashville pitcher Trae McLemore had struck out the side in each of the first two frames.
"It looked like he was going to throw a perfect game," Sammamish assistant manager Matt Fitzgibbons said. "And then my son (Nathan) had a nine-pitch walk, and I'm thinking, 'Maybe, we can do this.'" Nashville manager Chris Mercado credited Sammamish for finding its offense in the third. At the same time, Mercado couldn't help but note how two throwing errors led to a pair of runs.
"You can't beat yourself," Mercado said. "That's what I told our kids that our biggest opponent was ourselves. We let that get to us a little bit." Sammamish's Matheson also did a solid job in three-plus innings in relief of starter Jacob Dahlstrom. Matheson allowed just one run on three hits against a Nashville team that had scored 10 runs in each of its past two games.
"I feel like it's all on my shoulders," Matheson said. "And if I can get them to put it on the ground and get them to swing, I feel like it's all in my hands." In the International bracket elimination game, getting hit in the foot never felt so good to Gonzalez.
As the infielder limped his way toward first base, Edgardo Rosales was celebrating on his way home from third with the decisive run for Panama, which overcame a 7-4 deficit. "The only thing I was thinking was to try to get on base one way or another," Gonzalez said through interpreter Gilbert Monell. "And after being hit by the pitch I felt very happy."
Jordan Agrazal had three RBIs, including a two-run single in the sixth. And Rosales would not have been in a position to score had he not reached base because of a two-out error by Yeh Tung-Jua, who bobbled a grounder to third.
"It was a difficult game. It was important that we won," manager Luis Gonzalez said through Monell. "I congratulate all the kids on the other team for their effort. Our team never gave up, and that made us get the victory."
For Taiwan, it was a shocking turn of events for the tournament's youngest team, which includes five 11-year-olds — the most of any squad. Several Taiwan players, including catcher Lee Chen-Hsun, broke down in tears following the game.
Panama catcher Juan Crisp and several teammates went over to console their opponents. "I saw a couple of players on their team crying, and even a couple on our team," manager Gonzalez said. "It was a great game. They're kids. You can expect that."
Taiwan manager Lee Kuo-Chiang provided essentially the same answer in taking only three questions following the game. "(I) never thought about pulling (the) pitcher because (I) believe the player will do his best, and the player has already learned from the game," Kuo-Chiang said through interpreter Lin Chia-Hsien. "The players did not give up."
Yu Teng-Yao took the loss in relief of Tung-Jua, who was forced to leave with one out in the fifth after reaching his 85-pitch limit. Taiwan showed plenty of perseverance in rallying to take the lead after giving up four runs in the first inning.
Lee Shu-Ming had a two-run single to cap a six-run third inning that put Taiwan ahead 7-4. Chou Shih-Che drove in two runs on three hits for Taiwan. Armando Lopez hit a three-run homer in the first inning for Panama.
Earlier in the day, Brno, Czech Republic (1-2), beat Grosse Pointe, Mich. (0-3), 5-3 in a consolation game, ending both teams' tournament.